What happened to the Janus family? Tylenol Murders Explained

By Louie Fecou
Published: October 11, 2023 (Last updated: October 13, 2023)
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What happened to the Janus family? Tylenol Murders Explained

If you are of a certain age, then you will recall the horror that news stories would report on, involving people tampering with products found on the shelves of shops and supermarkets. One horrific and tragic case occurred in the 1980s and involved packets of head cold medicine, that were contaminated, and then replaced on the shelves, leading to people purchasing the poisoned product and using them as directed. The Tylenol murders involved just such a scenario, leading to the death of seven people, including three members of the Janus family. A new documentary, Painkiller: The Tylenol Murders on Paramount+, is taking a deep dive into the subject.

The terrifying trend would rear its ugly head over the years, and the general public would be shocked to hear of cases such as needles being found in strawberries in Australia, pins being found in bread in Germany, and killer sweets being sold in Pakistan.

It is a horrific premise that every now and then makes headlines, but sadly it is usually after a terrible tragedy has occurred.

The Tylenol murders were a particularly malicious and heart-breaking example of this despicable practice that would leave seven dead, including three members of the Janus family.

Tylenol Murders Explained

Over forty years ago, seven people died after taking the head cold medication Tylenol.

The capsules had been tampered with, replacing the contents with cyanide, resulting in the wasteful deaths of seven innocent people.

The Janus family would lose three members, and the killer or killers have never been caught.

What happened to the Janus family?

The terrible and monstrous action of placing cyanide in the capsules resulted in three deaths within the Janus family.

Adam Janus, 27, would purchase the contaminated product at a Jewel Osco store in Arlington Heights, and after taking the capsule for a headache, would collapse and die at his home.

Stanley Janus, only 25, and newly-wedded wife Theresa, 20, went to Adam’s house after the terrible tragedy had happened. They were told that it had been a heart attack that had killed Adam.

READ: What happened to Aydon Quinn? Benadryl Case Explained

The poisoned medication was still at his home, and as the couple had both been feeling ill, they took the capsules themselves, leading to their deaths shortly after.

Four other people would also take the poison, and they too would die.

What happened after the Tylenol murders?

The deaths in the Janus family were really the key to solving what had happened with the poisoned products.

Nurse Helen Jensen would be called to visit the family after the deaths and would indeed find the Tylenol that had been bought, with the receipt, that she found by going through the garbage, indicating that it had been purchased on the day the family members had died.

The packaging showed six capsules missing, and the quick-thinking nurse made some connections, sending the rest of the pack over for investigators to examine.

Toxicologist Michael Schaffer was tasked with testing the rest of the medication and the remaining 44 capsules from the Janus’s bottle contained fatal amounts of cyanide.

A press conference was called immediately and the word was out not to take the medication, with Johnson and Johnson recalling the product immediately.

Chuck Kramer, who had been one of the emergency service personnel that was called in when the Kramer family became ill, was also convinced that there had been some kind of poison administered.

Kramer would also report what he suspected to Helen Jensen, but initially, there was pushback against their claims.

Shockingly, the police and medical examiner would doubt the claims, but it would not be long before the truth of the poisoned Tylenol would be made apparent.

The deaths would bring about major changes in the way such products were packaged, making them tamper-proof in an attempt to stop it from happening again, but after this case, other attempts at poisoning products did occur.

The documentary looks at the archived footage around the case, and also presents new evidence, offering up suggestions about the suspects that may have been involved.

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