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Home ILLINOIS The Tylenol murders: How we reported this story

The Tylenol murders: How we reported this story

With the 40th anniversary of the 1982 Tylenol cyanide poisoning case approaching, the Tribune launched a nearly yearlong investigation into why the murders that both terrified and fascinated the country have never been solved.

Reporters Christy Gutowski and Stacy St. Clair interviewed more than 150 people, many of whom are retired but continue to give their time and knowledge to investigators still working the case. The team also reviewed tens of thousands of pages of records, including sealed affidavits and other confidential documents that outline law enforcement’s best evidence.

The Tribune traveled across Illinois and to seven other states to track down key players and obtain access to court records. Reporters filed dozens of open records requests. In some instances, government authorities blocked the Tribune’s access to information they considered to be part of an open investigation. And the FBI declined to answer questions about the case and advised some long-retired agents not to speak.

Reporters overcame these roadblocks by building trust with sources, including confidential ones, who had firsthand knowledge of the investigation and had backgrounds in local, state and federal government.

Tribune exclusive: Law enforcement seeks to persuade prosecutors to act on ‘chargeable’ case >>> Read the full story here

Reporters also contacted relatives of each of the seven victims, always respecting their wishes if they declined to relive the past. Despite the passage of time, the pain still lingers for family members, and many said they have all but given up hope that the killer will ever be known and held responsible.

The victims: 40 years ago, an infamous Chicago-area crime took these 7 lives >>> Read the full story here

The Tribune twice traveled to the Boston area to try to interview and photograph the FBI’s main suspect who has not spoken to reporters in more than a decade. Now 76, he told the Tribune he is not the Tylenol killer and offered his own theory about what happened.

Photojournalists Stacey Wescott and E. Jason Wambsgans documented important players in the investigation as well as poignant images of victims’ relatives and friends, including capturing the heartbreak on 71-year-old Joseph Janus’ face as he described losing his two younger brothers and new sister-in-law hours apart on Sept. 29, 1982. Photo editor Marianne Mather dug deep in the Tribune’s archives to unearth decades of images by photographers who chronicled each twist and turn in the four-decade-old mystery.

Besides a multiple-part series, published in serial form online and in print, the Tribune also co-produced the podcast “Unsealed: The Tylenol Murders” with At Will Media and audiochuck.

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