The Tylenol Murders of 1982

Lori Johnston
10 min readJul 18, 2020

It’s hard to imagine now for younger people out there but back in 1982, there was no such thing as a tamper-proof bottle. Drugs, like Extra Strength Tylenol, were sold off the shelf in the bottle with a cotton ball tucked under the lid. No boxes glued shut and no protective foil seal across the lid. What happened in Chicago in the autumn of 1982 led to a change in the pharmaceutical industry and the packaging industry.

Mary Kellerman was only 12, the first and youngest victim of the poisonings. She woke around 6:30 on the morning of Wednesday, September 29, 1982 feeling sick with a cold; her parents elected to keep her home from school. She took Tylenol to help ease her symptoms. Her father Dennis would tell the Chicago Tribune that he heard his daughter go into the bathroom, close the door and then heard something drop. He called out to her, asking if she was okay, but got no response. After calling out again, he opened the door to find Mary, still in her pajamas, unconscious on the floor.

Paramedics arrived at the Kellerman home in Schaumburg and tried every drug they had to resuscitate her, with no success. She was transported to the Alexian Brothers Medical Center in Elk Grove, where she was pronounced dead at 9:56 a.m.

Because of her age, an autopsy was ordered. It was noted that she took Tylenol that morning but nothing seemed out of sorts . . . at least not yet.

Around noon on that same Wednesday, postal worker Adam Janus, 27 years old and from Arlington Heights, was at home, also under the weather. He was worried that he was coming down with a cold. He picked up his…

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Lori Johnston

Writer, reader, margarita drinker. Currently looking for a “dare to be great” situation.