Friday, May 23, 2008

Love Thy Neighbor? Not This One!

This is James W. Lewis and his wife LeAnn. The couple lived in Chicago for a few months in 1981-2, after which they moved to New York. They were calling themselves Robert and Nancy Richardson, because James was wanted on Kansas City charges: bilking elderly people out of land and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Since LeAnn had been fired from her Chicago travel agency job for taking office stationery for personal use, James needed to take revenge on her ex-boss. The 1982 Tylenol poisonings gave him the means: he wrote a note to Johnson & Johnson (on the travel agency letterhead) demanding one million dollars to end the poisonings and signed it with the ex-boss's name. He asked that the money be transfered to an account belonging to said ex-boss. However, his clever plan backfired. Apparently he did not think to type the note or to disguise his handwriting. Police found his fingerprints on the letter and matched the handwriting. Since the couple were in New York when the Tylenol bottles must have been tampered with, James was only charged with extortion. After serving 13 years of his 20-year sentence he was released. He and his wife moved into a lovely building in Cambridge, MA, which happens to be one of the 2 buildings in my condo association. Luckily it wasn't my building. Still, it was pretty close.
Fast forward to July 29, 2004. Once again, Mr. Lewis is in trouble with the law. His partner in a consulting business claimed he had used spice spray on her and struggled with her for four hours before raping her. When the case finally came to trial, the accuser refused to testify against him and Lewis was released. Recently he's been giving interviews, bewailing his wrongs. Being suspected of the Tylenol killings caused him great anguish: "I can tell you it is a big weight to have thrown at you and it is nothing that your mother prepares you for and it is not something that you learn about in school" (see McCabe).
I don't suspect him of being the Tylenol poisoner. But I do call him the Tylenol man; writing that note earned him the name.

McCabe, Neil W., "My Chat With the Tylenol Man" The Alewife, October 03, 2007
Bell, Rachel, "The Tylenol Terrorist: Looking for Answers" TruTV Crime Library
Hilts, Philip J. and Joyce Wadler, "Wanted on Extortion Charges; Tylenol Figure Arrested in New York" The Washington Post, December 14, 1982, Tuesday, Final Edition, First Section; A1
Roger Nicolsen Interview:

1 comment:

Chuckbert said...

Thanks for putting life into perspective. I grumble about a neighbor's barking dog. That's nothing compared to your neighbor. I'll stick with the annoying dog.