CHICAGO (CBS) “When I see this bottle, I go back to the most tragic moment in my family’s life,” said Monica Janus.
She was only 8 years old when the killer or killers deliberately flooded Tylenol capsules with cyanide and placed the contaminated bottles on the shelves of stores in the Chicago area.
CBS 2 investigator Dave Savini asked Monica’s father, Joe Janus, if he thought the case would ever be cleared.
“I hope before I die,” Joe said as he broke down. “Hope to see this person.”
A total of seven people – including two brothers and sister-in-law Joe – were killed by contaminated Tylenol.
September 29, 1982 – 40 years ago Thursday – 12-year-old Mary Kellerman of Elk Grove Village fell and died after taking the very strong Tylenol of a cold. Six other people died a few days later – including three members of the Janus family.
As the body count increased, fear grew. With no social media or an easy means of mass communication at the time, policemen were driving around and shouting through loudspeakers, “Don’t take Tylenol.”
“It was everywhere because Tylenol is something everyone uses,” said Monica’s 12-year-old daughter, Isabel.
“It was very scary and sad to think, wow, our family just falls and dies,” added Monica. “It was just scary because everyone was sobbing and crying.”
Isabel recently wrote an essay for the school about how the Tylenol m*rders destroyed her family. She said that only “a bad person, a person who just doesn’t care about people” can commit such a crime.
Adam Janus was Izabela’s great-uncle. The healthy 27-year-old mailman wasn’t feeling well on Thursday when he woke up to work 40 years ago, so he unknowingly bought contaminated Tylenol at the Jewel Osco store in Arlington Heights – and fainted later at home.
“So when they told my family that he died of a heart att*ck, they couldn’t believe it,” Monica said. “They were like, why would he die of a heart att*ck?”
Initially, the family was told that Adam’s heart had failed. After they mourned his body, they left the hospital.
Another great-uncle of Isabel, 25-year-old Stanley Janus, and new wife Teresa, then 20, later went to Adam’s house. The tainted bottle of Tylenol was still there, and they weren’t well, so they reached for the pills, not yet knowing what had caused Adam’s d*ath.
“Then Stanley and Theresa took it because they had a headache – later [they] it’s over, said Isabel.
Joe said his family came to Chicago from Poland for a better life.
“My brothers were everything to me,” said Joe. “We all loved each other.”
He said everyone has a good job. Joe and Stanley owned an auto parts store.
“Everything we try so hard in this country has been going well for us and one day it all falls apart,” said Joe.
Joe was home with Stanley when the poison took effect.
“He just fell,” Joe recalled, “and when he fell, his mouth – those white things came out of his mouth. I could see his eyes turned back, you know – so they called an ambulance. ”
When the ambulance arrived, Theresa also fell.
“Just awful,” said Chuck Kramer, the then Arlington Heights fire lieutenant who was working on Stanley when Theresa caught him and fell. “One of the worst calls I’ve had in my life.
“And as soon as I turned her around – a second ago she was holding my arm and now she is there with her eyes fixed and wide and not responding to light,” Kramer continued.
“The amount of cyanide she had in her would kill 26 elephants,” added Monica.
“He’s an animal,” said Joe of the killer. “He kills people without fear.”
CBS 2 reported the funeral of Theresa and Stanley Janus in 1982. Their coffins were moved to the same church where they got married just three months ago, CBS 2’s Camilla Carr then reported.
“I remember my father approaching Adam’s coffin and he just couldn’t stand it. He literally threw his body on top of my uncle and the coffin almost fell over, ”said Monica Janus. “I will never forget it. It was terrible to see.
In an interview with Joe Savini, he asked him what he was thinking about at the moment.
Joe’s answer was, “I don’t feel like living anymore.”
Kramer said that when he talks about the victims he talks about them as family.
“It was really hard,” he said as his lip twitched.
Three others died a few days later – new mother Mary Reiner, 27, from Winfield; Lombard Call Center Employee, Mary McFarland, 31; and 35-year-old flight attendant Paula Jean Prince from the Old Town also died.
The Janus killings were key to discovering all seven d*aths from contaminated Tylenol.
Kramer was part of a team that quickly made this historic discovery – which led to the immediate removal of Tylenol from stores and homes and saved an unknown number of lives.
“I’ve watched the family end,” said Kramer. “I don’t know how anyone could do something like that.”
But the killer or killers were never caught, and the Janus family said that after so many years, detectives had never contacted them for updates.
In a recent interview on the case, Sgt. Arlington Heights Police Department. Joe Murphy would not have said if the police had contacted the Janus family specifically, but said vaguely that he has recently spoken to family members.
“In cold cases, it is difficult to know when to contact the family and whether it is appropriate. And the family is always trying to see if there is new information, and there is always limited information that we can pass on to the families, ”he said. “Every time someone approaches me or other detectives, the priority is to answer that query.”
Murphy admitted that there could have been a “communication failure” as the case had been passed from one investigator to another over the years.
“And it’s at the agency. We will have to have it, ”he said. “But I’ve spoken to family members recently and I’ve been trying to give them as much information as possible.”
But Monica said her father deserved answers.
“He deserves to know,” she said. “I just see him cry all the time.”
Joe relocated his family from Chicago to the Wisconsin Dells area. He started a new life with his daughter Monika, and now with grandchildren – including Isabel.
But the family will never avoid the constant harvest and pain of killing their loved ones 40 years ago.
“I have a hard time living,” said Joe. “But I still have a daughter, a son, grandchildren. I have to live for them. ”
Isabel read on CBS 2 the end of an essay she wrote to the school:
“I truly believe that justice will be done – if not in this life then in the next – to the loving memory of Adam Janus, Stanley Janus, and Theresa Janus.”
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