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UPDATE — On April 27, 2011, officials of the federal penitentiary in Florence, Colorado, approached Ted Kaczynski on behalf of the FBI and requested a voluntary sample of DNA in reference to the 1982 Tylenol Murders. This information was revealed by Kaczynski himself, in a petition to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, in which he sought to halt the auction of his personal effects on the grounds that those effects might constitute evidence in the Tylenol Murder case. That court declined Kaczynski's request on the grounds that he had not been accused of complicity in the crimes.

In 2007, on the 35th anniversary of the Tylenol Murders, site owner Douglas Oswell forwarded the following letter to several Chicago-area media outlets and the Chicago Police Department.



The twenty-fifth anniversary of the infamous Tylenol Murders is now upon us. While the identity of the killer remains unknown, and promises to remain unknown, one individual, world-renowned for a series of infamous crimes that mirror the motivational profile of the Tylenol Killer, seems to fit the bill as a potential person of interest in the case. That individual is Theodore John Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber, now serving multiple life terms for a series of bombings that began in the late seventies and continued until his arrest in 1996.

My reasons for including Kaczynski as a person of interest are as follows:

1. As the Unabomber, Kaczynski based his operations in the Chicago area from his parents’ home in Lombard. Plotting the rough coordinates of the Tylenol tampering scenes and those of the Kaczynskis’ home produces a most singular pattern on a map of the greater Chicago area. The pattern is that of a semi-circle, with a base originating at the tampering site in Winfield, running nearly in a straight west-to-east line through Lombard and ending at the location of the tampering site in Chicago. There are no tampering sites south of this west-to-east line.

2. The only known death associated with the Tylenol Murders outside of the Chicago area occurred in Sheridan, Wyoming. Sheridan sits just outside the Montana border, on one of two main Interstate routes (Interstsate 90) from Kaczynski’s residence in Lincoln, Montana to the greater Chicago area. (See Google Maps)

3. Kaczynski made an extended visit to his parents’ house in Lombard during the years 1978 and 1979, for the purpose of mailing/placing bombs. Although his appearance in Chicago has not been confirmed after 1979, an FBI interview with his brother suggests that he returned on at least one occasion after that year. Quoting the transcript of that interview, “DAVE's memory of that time was extremely vague, but he seemed to remember that TED once drove DAVE's car to Montana and that he brought the car back to Chicago. DAVE could not recall the date, or recall an approximate time period. DAVE also had a vague, dream-like recollection of TED returning from Montana to Chicago for a visit. He thought that it could have been in 1979, or 1980, or conceivably at some later date. DAVE could not provide more specific details as to those vague memories.”

4. Kaczynski’s home state of Montana is notorious for gold mining and gold extraction from ore using the cyanide leaching process.

5. Kaczynski is a known murderer whose motivational profile, psychological profile and criminal signature fit hand-in-glove with the characteristics ascribed to mass poisoners generally, and the Tylenol Killer in particular. Further, in his role as the Unabomber, Kaczynski did not content himself with killing generally, but killed in such a manner as to maximize publicity for his alter-ego, seeking that publicity on a national and even global scale. In the year 1982 and prior, Kaczynski’s bombs were calculated to commit mass and indiscriminate murder, as typified by his 1980* airline bomb which would have caused a major airline disaster had it worked as planned, the 1981 firebomb at the University of Utah which failed to detonate, and the 1982 firebomb at UC Berkeley, which did not ignite. Although his true motive for killing pertained to the deep-seated inadequacies and sexual frustrations from which he suffered, Kaczynski’s stated motive was a desire to destroy the public’s faith in the technological-industrial system. In that regard it should be noted that, in their immediate aftermath, the Tylenol Murders did indeed foster a sense of deep public confusion and distrust in the production, packaging and distribution of consumer products.

6. Entries in his journals show that in 1982, the year of the Tylenol Murders, Kaczynski was suffering from extreme frustration over his inability to create and deploy a lethal bomb.

From journal entries in 1982:

“. . . My projects for revenge on the technological society are expensive and I need money to carry them out. For instance, last fall I attempted a bombing and spent nearly three hundred bucks just for travel expenses, motel, clothing for disguise, etc. aside from cost of materials for bomb. And then the thing failed to explode. Damn. This was the firebomb found in U. of Utah Business School outside door of room containing some computer stuff.” (U.S. v. Kaczynski)

“May about 1982 I sent a bomb to a computer expert named Patrick Fis[h]er. His secretary opened it. One newspaper said she was in hospital? in good condition with arm and chest cuts. Other newspaper said bomb drove fragments of wood into her flesh. But no indication that she was permanently disabled. Frustrating that I can’t seem to mak[e] lethal bomb. .... But I must succeed, must get revenge. Not long after foregoing, I think in June or July, I went to U. of California Berkeley and placed in computer science building a bomb consisting of a pipe bomb in a gallon can of gasoline. According to newspaper, vice chairman of computer sci. dept. picked it up. He was considered to be “out of danger of losing any fingers”, but would need further surgery for bone and tendon damage in hand. Apparently pipe bomb went off but did not ignite gasoline. I don’t understand it. Frustrated. ...” (U.S. v. Kaczynski)

* * * * * * * *

Although the dearth of evidence in the Tylenol case would seem to preclude identifying and convicting any suspect, no matter how promising, one purported piece of evidence might be of help. A 1982 Newsweek article about the murders described a drugstore surveillance photo showing a “bearded man” watching as one of the victims purchased the bottle of Tylenol that eventually proved fatal to her. That article states, “For a while last week, the Lewis connection seemed even firmer. A Chicago TV station released a grainy, indistinct drugstore surveillance photo showing one poison victim, flight attendant Paula Prince, buying her fatal bottle of Tylenol -- and a bearded man who resembled Lewis watching in the background.” If this photo is still in existence, it might easily be compared to photographs of Kaczynski, whose facial features contain distinctive characteristics.**

Thanks very much for your time. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.


Douglas Oswell


*  The bombing of Flight 444 occurred on November 15, 1979.

** It now appears unlikely that Kaczynski, or any other suspect, will be identified on the basis of this photograph.

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Suspicious person seen on surveillance camera as he watches victim Paula Prince purchasing the cyanide-laced Tylenol that killed her, with comparison photo of Kaczynski, ca. 1994.

Click here for a photo of Kaczynski in 1981, the year before the Tylenol Murders.

Essay: Who was the Tylenol Killer of 1982 and 1986? by A.K. Wilks

In 1982 Kaczynski wrote to his parents, "I hope you both drop dead before Christmas." [Chicago Tribune, "Letters: In the Unabomber's Own Words." May 18, 2008 online edition] Was he simply expressing his hostility? Or might he have been harboring a design to actually harm his parents while diverting suspicion from himself? See the Stella Nickell product-tampering case of 1986.