THE 1986 TYLENOL MURDER WILL BE SOLVED IN THE SPRING OF 2011
Westchester District Attorney Carl Vergari was close to single-handedly solving the 1986 Tylenol murder before he was silenced by the FBI. Vergari’s investigation will be re-activated in the The Tylenol Mafia, and from beyond the grave Carl Vergari will finish what he started.
Acetaminophen is not ordinarily amenable to tableting by the same methods as aspirin. These materials have significantly different properties. Crystalline aspirin is easily tableted, since the crystals are quite soft and exhibit good plasticity/elasticity when compacted to tablets. Further, cohesive/adhesive bonding within the aspirin tablet is strong and the aspirin, itself, provides good lubricity to the formula.In contrast, acetaminophen crystals are very hard and brittle and fracture very easily. The crystals have essentially no plasticity/elasticity and can be tableted by the normal aspirin tableting methods only by using high levels of excipients and large crystalline grade acetaminophen. Furthermore, at least 25% more excipients are required in addition to high levels of lubricant. The large acetaminophen crystals have the disadvantage of being slowly dissolved in the body and require additional tableting aids to increase the rate of dissolution.
Johnson & Johnson immediately sent representatives to Yonkers to attempt to learn more and to assist in the investigation. J&J also began conferring by telephone with the FDA and FBI, both in Washington and at the respective field offices.
How is it possible that the FDA determined on the very same day they learned about the poisoning that “there were no indications that it (the contamination) could be the result of the manufacturing”?
”Everyone involved believes that this is a local situation,” said Grigg.
“Cyanide would eat through a gelatin capsule in 8 to 10 days,” meaning it had been added since the Tylenol left the plant, and that therefore the poison presumably was placed in the bottles within the last 10 days, said Dr. Millard Hyland, Westchester County’s chief medical examiner.
J&J spokesman James Murray said that based on Hyland’s finding that the cyanide would have eaten through the capsules, the company feels the tampering “did not take place at the factory.”
At a February 11 news conference held at Johnson & Johnson headquarters, McNeil president Joseph Chiesa, while standing next to CEO James Burke, said:
”We have conviction” that none of the poison was put in the capsules by a worker at the plant. He added that cyanide breaks down the gelatin-based capsules and that the deterioration becomes evident ”in less than a month.”
FDA spokesman William Grigg, at a separate press conference, said:
“We have conviction that none of the poison was put in the capsules by a worker at the plant.” Cyanide breaks down the gelatin based capsules and deterioration becomes evident “in less than a month.”
Countering the statements made by Hyland, Murray, Chiesa, and Grigg, was Westchester District Attorney Carl Vergari, who said he’d learned from federal authorities that the cyanide laced Tylenol capsules would not show signs of deterioration in 8 to 10 days; that they may have an indefinite shelf life.
Then, on February 14, federal authorities admitted that the cyanide found in a Tylenol capsule that killed a woman could have been put there months ago.
“The work we did showed no time restrictions such as were previously reported,” said FDA Commissioner Dr. Frank Young.
The evidence cited by Officials as proof that the Tylenol had been adulterated very recently, after it reached the local stores, was soundly refuted. The cyanide laced Tylenol capsules had an indefinite shelf-life, just as Carl Vergari had said. Therefore, the Tylenol capsules could have been poisoned weeks, months, or even a year earlier. They could have been poisoned at the local distribution center or they could have been poisoned while sitting in Johnson & Johnson’s regional distribution facility in Montgomeryville, PA.
Much of the evidence made public after the 1986 Tylenol tampering conflicted with evidence from the 1982 Tylenol murders investigation. Careless statements made by J&J executives and government officials in 1986 contradicted statements they’d made in 1982.
“The bottles were tampered with locally, at the retail store” aspect of the approved theory – the most important component of the cover up – was exposed as a fraud after the 1986 Tylenol murder and then very sloppily covered up by the FBI.
Westchester District Attorney Carl Vergari revealed evidence about the tampering that officials from the FBI, FDA, and J&J did not want publicized.
THE VERGARI PROBLEM
The cornerstone of the approved theory of the Tylenol murders deception ran into trouble when on February 18, 1986 Carl Vergari held a press conference and reiterated findings revealed to him by FBI scientists. Vergari said Federal investigators found no evidence that the triple seals on the bottles of tainted Tylenol had been broken after they left the factory, suggesting that they might have been tampered with there (at the factory).
The two bottles that contained contaminated capsules were sent to the FBI labs to determine “to a reasonable degree of certainty” through microscopic examination “whether the metal foil that’s heat-welded to the top of the bottle has been tampered with after it left the factory.”
“And they say in both cases that their laboratory examination reveals that it was not,” he said, ”that these bottles were not tampered with after they left the factory; that, ergo, the contamination was done at some time during the manufacturing process before the seal was placed on it.”
“What could be clearer than that?” Vergari said.
FBI spokesman Jack French declined to confirm or deny Vergari’s assertion. But the fact remained; the FBI’s own evidence didn’t fit the approved theory. Since thepackaging hadn’t been tampered with, the Tylenol capsules had to have been laced with cyanide before the bottles were packaged and before they were placed on the local retail store shelves. Vergari was missing a critical piece of evidence that kept him from connecting all the dots. He didn’t know the Tylenol hadn’t been packaged at the factory; it was packaged at repackaging facilities across the country.
Although the evidence made it crystal clear that the Tylenol had not been adulterated at the local retail stores, the FBI refused to deviate from their story. Milt Ahlerich, chief of public affairs for the FBI, said the lack of evidence “does not mean that the tampering did not occur.”
Here again, despite the FBI’s own evidence showing otherwise, it publically discounted the findings made in their own lab by their own investigators. Ahlerich’s statement that “the lack of evidence does not mean that the tampering did not occur,” was especially ridiculous.
Some FBI lab guy had obviously not been brought into the loop regarding the approved theory of the Tylenol murders.
J&J and FDA officials quickly weighed in on the discussion by making public statements intended to discredit Vergari. Their erroneous statements were considered facts in the minds of the media and the public. Officials from the FDA and J&J said, “The weight of evidence suggested that the crime was a local one.”
James Burke appeared on “The Donahue Show” and said:
“We do not have any proof it didn’t happen in the plant or the warehouse, but all logic tells us it didn’t.”
Burke went on to note the ”considerable amount of confusion” in the case that may have led to an opinion held by Carl Vergari, the Westchester County District Attorney, who had said he believes the pills were probably adulterated at the manufacturing plants.
What confusion was Burke talking about? There wasn’t any question that the FBI found absolutely no evidence that any of the tamper resistant seals had been tampered with. If there was any confusion, it was created because of deceptive statements made by Burke, Ahlerich, and FDA Commissioner Frank Young. Statements made by these individuals had no basis in fact and conflicted with the very simple truth that the Tylenol capsules had been adulterated during distribution before any of the deadly capsules were delivered to the local retail stores.
The all out marketing blitz to deceive the public didn’t change the fact that Vergari had spilled the beans. The packaging on the Tylenol bottles had not been tampered with. Evidence from the FBI’s own inspection confirmed this fact, creating a real problem for proponents of the approved theory.
To rectify this problem the FBIwas forced to take action to quash this troubling truth. So it did what any self respecting government agency would do when faced with a situation such as this. They ordered a bogus second inspection of the tamper resistant packaging and then made up evidence that aligned with the approved theory.
For their second inspection the FBI claimed to have used a sophisticated ultra hi-tech investigatory technique; a technique that the FBI refused to disclose to the public.
The FBI’s second inspection wasn’t really done with the help of some top secret ultra hi-tech equipment. In fact, there was no second inspection; it wasn’t needed. The only equipment needed to get the desired results from the second inspection were the pen and paper used to produce the press release that seemingly fit the approved theory of the Tylenol murders.
THE TAMPER-RESISTANT INSPECTION SCAM
On February 26, in response to questions about the progress of the case over the previous few weeks, Milt Ahlerich, chief of public affairs for the FBI held a press conference in which he issued this statement:
“Previously undetected signs of tampering have now been discovered using sophisticated scientific examinations. Our examinations have further determined it was possible to invade the bottles after packaging was complete without detection through conventional means of examination.”
Ahlerich said the bureau was releasing this information “because of the intense national interest in the case.”
Ahlerich refused to comment further, but several “un-named authorities” confirmed that the bureau’s findings applied to both bottles of tainted capsules.
Ahlerich’s statement contradicted the original FBI findings that had been revealed publically by Carl Vergari. Ahlerich offered no explanation and supplied no proof that the packaging had been tampered with, but his statement, which in fact revealed no new information, did seem to comply with the official “approved theory”.
A spokesman for Johnson & Johnson jumped all over the FBI’s reversal, saying that the company welcomed the FBI’s finding.
“The company has contended that it was extremely unlikely that the capsules were tainted during the manufacturing process,” said J&J spokesman, James Murray. “We were puzzled all along as to how someone could have breached the three safety seals on the bottle and carton without being detected. We find the FBI statement very interesting.”
In my days at Johnson & Johnson, I learned that when J&J employees replied to my emails with statements like – “Your findings are very interesting,” or, “I’m puzzled by these results”, or, “This is very interesting, what does ‘so-and-so’ think about this?” – I knew what they really meant was, “I’m not going to confirm or deny anything because I don’t want my lie documented in this email.”
Officials Inspect J&J’s Manufacturing Facility
Days before Ahlerich’s press conference, Carl Vergari said he planned to inspect the McNeil plant in Fort Washington, PA to “look into the possibility that the adulteration had occurred there.” Vergari said, “their review would examine manufacturing processes and might include employee personnel files.”
Prior to Ahlerich’s press conference, a team of investigators, including officials from Vergari’s office, visited the McNeil plant. Afterward, Vergari said that the tour by a team of investigators “suggested additional broad areas of inquiries.”
Vergari added that the case of the poisoned Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules is “still wide open,” but refused to elaborate on the inspection tour of the manufacturing plant on Monday. “We still haven’t eliminated anything,” Vergari said. “We haven’t had evidence to exclude tampering at the factory.”
Shortly after Vergari determined there were still “broad areas of inquiries” at the factory, and it appeared he would intensify his investigation of McNeil Consumer Products, FBI Director Milt Ahlerich came out with an official FBI statement designed to convince the public that the Tylenol bottles had been tampered with at the local retail stores.
One day after Vergari said he hadn’t excluded tampering at the McNeil factory, the FBI reversed their initial findings regarding the tamper-resistant packaging. Accordingly, there would be no need for upstart Carl Vergari to pursue his investigation.
There were, of course, plenty of reasons for Vergari to continue to pursue his investigation. The facts hadn’t changed. But the Tylenol murder investigations were never about getting to the truth.
Never again would Carl Vergari be heard from with regard to the 1986 Tylenol murder investigation.
Two weeks after FDA official William Grigg stated, “Everyone involved believes that this is a local situation,” he’d gotten everybody in line. With the truth obscured, authorities could now focus the public’s attention back on the search for a fictitious unemployed psychopath.