Michelle Rosen was 8 years-old when she watched her mother die a painful death in 1982 from swallowing a Tylenol capsule laced with cyanide. Today, she says she is relieved the FBI has new leads in the case.
"The idea that someone would preplan this, have all the time to come up with the idea, go through this, and not have an idea what lives they're destroying when they've chosen to sit back and watch it," Rosen now 35 and a mother herself, told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "That to me is the most disgusting thing that anybody could do."
The unsolved case has haunted Rosen ever since, as she spent years wondering whether the person who killed her mom could be someone's neighbor or the grocery bagger at the local store. She vividly remembers her mom convulsing after taking the pain medication and then being wheeled out their front door of their home on a gurney.
"It's probably not the sight that anyone wants to think about or remember," she said.
Now, she and her children do not consume over-the-counter and prescription drugs, and the fear has been passed down to another generation.
"Everything seems to be a possible tampering product to me and my child," Rosen said, then adding, "My son is always thinking people like to poison other people."
The FBI says it has "new leads" in the 1982 unsolved murders of the seven people who swallowed Tylenol capsules that had been adulterated with cyanide, which have led them back to a man who was in the middle of the case but dismissed as a suspect in the killings. And now sources familiar with the original case are speaking to ABC News.
On Wednesday, officials raided the Cambridge, Mass., home of James Lewis, 62, who spent 12 years in prison for sending $1 million extortion letters to Johnson and Johnson, the makers of Tylenol, as well as a nearby storage facility. Agents left late in the evening with boxes of evidence and a large Apple desktop monitor.
Rosen told ABC News that her relatives have been told by the FBI there is new scientific evidence linking Lewis to the crime, thanks to advanced scientific testing now possible.
"There were a lot of people who believed what was available in terms of evidence pointed towards him," former Johnson and Johnson Senior Executive Wayne Nelson told ABC News. "But that was the extent, it wasn't enough to convict or even prosecute."
Lewis, dubbed the "Tylenol Man," admitted writing the extortion letters at the time but has always denied poisoning the capsules. He has since maintained his innocence on his website and on a local cable access program. He was released from prison in 1995 and moved to Boston.
"He was dismissed as a suspect because it was felt the cyanide, since it eats through the capsule, would have had to have been put in close to the time they were purchased, and the FBI could not put him in Chicago at the time," former FBI Agent Brad Garrett, now an ABC News consultant, said.
Lewis has maintained that he could not have committed the crime because he was in New York at the time. But Nelson told ABC News that, based on an analysis of the stores where the tainted Tylenol was purchased, many close to the case believed that whoever dropped the drugs off had flown into Chicago, rented a car, gone and distributed the pills, and then flown back out of O'Hare airport.