February 4, 2009 -- 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."
New Leads in the Case: Tylenol Man
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.
FBI Agent Explains Why Lewis Wasn't Charged
"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.
A drug store surveillance photo captured an image of a bearded man who some said resembled Lewis.
The case caused a national panic and led to drastic changes in the way over the counter medicine is sold in this country, introducing "tamper-proof" packaging.
On a website, Lewis has posted an audio message which claims he has been misunderstood. "Many enjoy twisting and contorting what I say into something ominous and dreadful which I do not intend. That, my friends, is the curse of being labeled the Tylenol Man," he said.
In a statement released Wednesday, the FBI said the recent 25th anniversary of the crime prompted "many" new tips in the case.
"All of these tips have been or will be thoroughly investigated in an effort to solve this crime and bring some measure of closure to the families of the victims," the statement read. FBI officials said no arrests are imminent and characterized Wednesday's raid of Lewis' home as part of "an ongoing criminal investigation."
Decades Later, the Tylenol Murders Remain Unsolved
To date no one has been charged in the murders of the seven people who were killed in the Chicago area after swallowing the tampered capsules.
The poisonings all occurred in the Chicago within weeks of each other in the fall of 1982. Investigators at the time believed that the perpetrator had taken Tylenol packages from local supermarkets and drug stores, adulterated the contents, and later returned the Tylenol the store shelves.
Now, the new leads are sparking hope that the case will finally be solved.
"I hope they have new solid evidence because the person that did this should really be penalized," said Nelson. "He took a number of lives and, to date, has gotten away with it."
Avni Patel and Megan Chuchmach contributed to this report.