Episode 6: Indiscriminate Killings
In Episode 6, Brittany and Tyler share two cases whose victims were selected without reason: The Chicago Tylenol Murders and The Dartmouth Murders.
Wine Pick: Cotes de Provence Rose, J.L. Quinson (can-SOHN)
Price is about $8 at Trader Joe’s
Perfect for summer.
Region: Côtes de Provence AOP, France Provence is the top birthplace of rosé. With it's Mediterranean climate, the southeastern coast of France is a popular for wines. And after two millennia of wine making, the region’s come to major in pinks. More than half the wines produced in Provence are rosé. this Côtes de Provence (say: COAT duh pro-VAHNZ) comes from J.L. Quinson (say: can-SOHN), one of France’s largest wine producers. This wine is characteristically dry, but with somewhat muted acidity, which makes it a wonderful apértif. Made from a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Cinsault grapes (two common rosé varietals), you’ll also find each sip presents bright berry notes; even hints of melon and rose petals, if you’re paying attention.
Tyler's Chicago Tylenol Murders Notes:
Early on the morning of Sept. 29, 1982, a medical mystery began with a sore throat and a runny nose. It was then that Mary Kellerman, a 12-year-old girl from Elk Grove Village, a suburb of Chicago, told her mother and father about her symptoms. They gave her one extra-strength Tylenol capsule. Mary was dead by 7 a.m. Within a week, her death would panic the entire nation. And only months later, it changed the way we purchase and consume over-the-counter medications.
That same day, a 27-year-old postal worker named Adam Janus of Arlington Heights, Illinois, died of what was initially thought to be a massive heart attack. His brother and sister-in-law, Stanley, 25, and Theresa, 19, of Lisle, Illinois, rushed to his home to console their loved ones. Both experienced throbbing headaches, a not uncommon response to a death in the family and each took a Tylenol extra-strength capsule or two from the same bottle Adam had used earlier in the day. Stanley died that very day and Theresa died two days later.
Over the next few days, three more strange deaths occurred: 35-year-old Mary McFarland of Elmhurst, Illinois, 35-year-old Paula Prince of Chicago, and 27-year-old Mary Reiner of Winfield, Illinois. All of them, it turned out, took Tylenol shortly before they died.
The cause of all of these deaths? Potassium cyanide.
If cyanide is inhaled it can cause a coma with seizures, apnea, and cardiac arrest, with death following in a matter of seconds. At lower doses, loss of consciousness may be preceded by general weakness, giddiness, headaches, vertigo, confusion, and perceived difficulty in breathing. At the first stages of unconsciousness, breathing is often sufficient or even rapid, although the state of the person progresses towards a deep coma, sometimes accompanied by pulmonary edema, and finally cardiac arrest. A cherry red skin color that changes to dark may be present.
Johnson & Johnson, the company that manufactured Tylenol, took an active role with the media in issuing mass warning communications and immediately called for a massive recall of the more than 31 million bottles of Tylenol in circulation. Tainted capsules were discovered in early October in a few other grocery stores and drug stores in the Chicago area, but, fortunately, they had not yet been sold or consumed.
Since the poisonings all occurred in Chicago, police knew that sabotage during production was not possible and since they had come from different pharmaceutical companies, they could rule out tampering at delivery sites as well. Johnson & Johnson quickly established that the cyanide lacing occurred after cases of Tylenol left the factory. Someone, police hypothesized, must have taken bottles off the shelves of local grocers and drug stores in the Chicago area, laced the capsules with poison, and then returned the restored packages to the shelves to be purchased by the unknowing victims.
One of the prime suspects was Roger Arnold. Roger Arnold was a dockworker employed by Jewel, where tainted Tylenol had been purchased at two separate retail locations. One of Arnold’s co-workers was the father-in-law of one of the victims, Mary Reiner. In addition, Arnold’s ex-wife had been committed to a psychiatric ward across the street from where Ms. Reiner purchased the poisoned Tylenol. A raid of Arnold’s home turned up, among other things, a slew of unregistered handguns, ammunition, chemicals, two one-way tickets to thailand, old copies of “Soldier of Fortune” magazine, and “The Anarchist Cookbook.”
Following a thorough investigation, Arnold was ruled out as a suspect. Nonetheless, he remained furious at the bartender informant, Marty Sinclair, who turned the police loose on him. He had a nervous breakdown due to the media attention, which he blamed on Sinclair. In the summer of 1983, Arnold shot and killed John Stanisha, whom he mistook for Sinclair. Stanisha was an unrelated man who did not know Arnold. Arnold was convicted in January 1984 and served 15 years of a 30-year sentence for second-degree murder. He died in June 2008.
In early 1983, at the FBI's request, Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene published the address and grave location of the first and youngest victim, Mary Kellerman. The story, written with the Kellerman family's consent, was proposed by FBI criminal analyst John Douglas on the theory that the perpetrator might visit the house or gravesite if he were made aware of their locations. Both sites were kept under 24-hour surveillance for several months, but the killer did not surface.
Other “copy-cat” poisonings, involving Tylenol and other over-the-counter medications, cropped up again in the 1980s and early 1990s but these events were never as dramatic or as deadly as the 1982 Chicago-area deaths. Conspiracy theories about motives and suspects for all these heinous acts continue to be bandied about on the Internet to this day.
Another suspect is Ted Kaczynski, better known as the Unabomber. In 2011 the FBI requested DNA samples from Kaczynski. The FBI said Kaczynski was among "numerous individuals" from whom the Bureau tried to obtain voluntary DNA samples as part of a reexamination of the 1982 killings. Though Kaczynski denied ever having possessed potassium cyanide, the first four Unabomber crimes happened in Chicago and its suburbs from 1978 to 1980, and Kaczynski's parents had a suburban Chicago home in Lombard, Illinois, in 1982, where he stayed occasionally.
One of the final suspects was James William Lewis. During the early parts of the investigation, Lewis was found to have sent an extortion letter to J&J demanding $1 million to stop the attacks. Police were unable to link him with the crimes, as he and his wife were living in New York City at the time. He was convicted of extortion, served 13 years of a 20-year sentence, and was released in 1995 on parole. WCVB Channel 5 of Boston reported that court documents, released in early 2009, "show Department of Justice investigators concluded Lewis was responsible for the poisonings, despite the fact that they did not have enough evidence to charge him".
In early January 2009, Illinois authorities renewed the investigation. Federal agents searched the home of James Lewis in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and seized a number of items. In Chicago, an FBI spokesman declined to comment but said "we'll have something to release later possibly". Law enforcement officials have received a number of tips related to the case coinciding with its anniversary. In a written statement, the FBI explained, “This review was prompted, in part, by the recent 25th anniversary of this crime and the resulting publicity. Further, given the many recent advances in forensic technology, it was only natural that a second look be taken at the case and recovered evidence.”
In January 2010, both Lewis and his wife submitted DNA samples and fingerprints to authorities. Lewis stated "if the FBI plays it fair, I have nothing to worry about".
As of today, the case remains unsolved.
Brittany's Dartmouth Murders Notes:
Happened on January 27, 2001 and are known as the Dartmouth College Murders
Two high school students, James Parker (16) and Robert Tulloch (17) murdered two married college professors for no reason other than that they were bored with Chelsea, the small town in Vermont where they lived. They decided on a whim they they would murder the victims for money to start a new life in Australia.
Victims were Half and Suzanne Zantop who lived in Etna, New Hampshire. They emigrated from Germany 25 years prior and were pillars in the society. Loved by many in the community and seemed to have no enemies. Students at Dartmouth loved them. Susanne was the chair of the German department and taught comparative literature. Half was a professor of earth sciences and geology. Students even nicknamed him “The Rock God” because of his deep passion and knowledge of the subject. The couple had actually been discussing retirement in the near future.
They had two grown daughters, a circle of friends who they loved inviting over for dinner parties. They were generous, caring, and always willing to extend a helping hand.
James stated that he and Robert found small town life too confining for their vastly superior brains. Australia and a life of crime was their dream of adventure, and they needed $10,000 to get it started. They tossed around many ideas from car theft to hitting old people with rocks and stealing their money. Eventually, the two settled on a scheme. The idea was to knock on doors pretending to be environmental students conducting a survey. Once inside, the plan was to tie up their victims and threaten them until they handed over their ATM cards and PIN.
Their first attempt was in July 2000, but the homeowner refused to open the door to two strangers, and wielded a 9-mm Glock to make his point.
Six months later, the pair tried again. First house, no one was home. Then they knocked on the Zantop door, and Half let them in – the teacher in him coming out. Suzanne was in the kitchen preparing a meal, either lunch or a dish for the evening’s dinner party. He led the boys to the study. After the two fumbled through some questions, Half stated that the two needed to be more prepared, and went to locate the number of someone who could help.
In a rage, Robert pulled a knife from a backpack, a military style commando knife they had purchased online, and violently just started stabbing Half in the chest and face, accidentally cutting his own leg in the process. Suzanne heard her husbands screams, and ran from the kitchen. Robert yelled at James to slit her throat, and James complied. Robert then came over and also started stabbing Suzanne in the face and on her body.
The pair left the house covered in blood. They ended up taking only $340 cash from Half’s wallet, and left the house filled with valuables, even though they had previously said they wanted money to start a new life in Australia.
Discovery & Getting Caught
A friend of the couple, Roxana Verona, arrived for dinner only to arrive to a silent home with the doors wide open. She walked in to find the blood drenched bodies of her friends in the study. She notified the police.
Robert and James had extremely inflated egos, believing that they were without a doubt, more important and smarter than everyone else. However apparently not smart enough to get away with murder, because they ended up leaving their knife sheaths behind at the murder scene. These sheaths were designed for a specific kind of 7-inch long blade. Investigators poured over sales from the knife manufacturer. A December 2000 sale of two knives led them to the suspects in Chelsea, VT only three weeks after the slaying.
Police questioned James, who had an alibi for the time of the crime. He said Robert and he purchased the knives to build a fort, but then sold them to a surplus store when they determined they were too heavy. James agreed to undergo fingerprinting. Robert shared the same story as James and when asked about the cut on his leg, he said he fell and cut himself on a metal spigot. Robert signed a search warrant allowing the police to fingerprint him and borrow his boots for matching purposes. All this was done without a lawyer present.
The next day the families found that the boys had left their homes. James left his father a note asking him not to call the cops – but of course the dad did immediately. Police had determined that Robert’s boots matched the footprint in the Zantop home, as did the fingerprints of both boys. A warrant was out for Robert’s arrest and James was wanted for questioning in the murders.
The pair ditched their car in Massachusetts. Police picked up James and Robert in Indiana as the two were making their way to California by hitchhiking. CB chatter from the radios of interstate truckers allowed police to pinpoint the boys.
Police found the weapons in which Robert left in a box in his room, as well as fingerprints, bloody footprints and DNA from blood on the knives that matched the victims,
During the trial, James ended up breaking down in tears and apologized to the victim’s two daughters. But Robert remained completely calm, expressing no remorse at all.
In November 2001, James cut a plea deal agreeing to testify against Robert in exchange for a drastically reduced charge – accessory to second degree murder for Susanne’s killing. It carried a sentence of 25 to life making him eligible for parole in 2026. He gave a full confession, describing everything that led up to that killings. The most baffling piece of the puzzle he revealed was why they chose the Zantops. Money was the motive, but the victims were selected completely by random chance.
After an unsuccessful attempt at an insanity defense, Robert pled guilty to first degree murder and was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. The two are actually being held in the same prison, Northern New Hampshire Correctional Facility, but their contact is reported as minimal.
In 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled that such sentence for juveniles were cruel and unusual punishment and Robert was granted a resentencing hearing. As of 2014, his case was one of four to be reviewed by the New Hampshire Supreme Court for resentencing. His case is the most high profile one being revisited. His sentencing could end up the same. His resentencing hearing is set for April 2018.
Blood & Wine