The Chicago Tylenol Murders and Corruption in Kansas City

Jun 03, 11:15 AM
TW: Police Brutality

We don’t normally do trigger warnings, but we’re making an exception this week. In this episode, Brandi’s case very briefly mentions police brutality. The case is old timey and the alleged brutality wasn’t racially motivated, but in light of police officer Derek Chauvin’s recent murder of George Floyd and the protests that have followed, we figured some folks might like a heads up. Note: If it seems weird that we discuss police brutality without mentioning the current climate, that’s because we recorded this episode before the protests.

It was happening all around Chicago. People felt a little ill. So they took a Tylenol. A short time later, they dropped dead. Doctors were initially puzzled. Why were young, seemingly healthy people dying so suddenly? They soon found the unsettling answer. Someone -- or maybe multiple someones -- had gone to multiple Chicago-area grocery stores and drugstores, took the Tylenol off the shelves, and filled the capsules with poison. They then returned the poisoned Tylenol to the store shelves, where unsuspecting buyers picked it up. 

Then Brandi tells us about Kansas City socialite Florence Barton. On an October night in 1920, Florence and her fiance Howard Winter went for a drive. They drove Howard’s Dodge Coupe through Swope Park, and eventually headed down a country road. When they stopped for Howard to smoke his cigar, a car pulled up alongside them. A man jumped out. He asked Howard for directions. As Howard answered, he realized that the man had a gun, and it was aimed right at him.

And now for a note about our process. For each episode, Kristin reads a bunch of articles, then spits them back out in her very limited vocabulary. Brandi copies and pastes from the best sources on the web. And sometimes Wikipedia. (No shade, Wikipedia. We love you.) We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the real experts who covered these cases.

In this episode, Kristin pulled from:
“The Tylenol Terrorist,” by Rachael Bell on Crime Library
“Murder by Tylenol,” by Brian Anderson for Vice
“Home of man linked to Tylenol deaths searched,” the Associated Press
“James Lewis rape case reveals horrifying allegations,” by Laurel J. Sweet for the Boston Herald 

In this episode, Brandi pulled from:
“The 1920 murder of a socialite exposes a corrupt Kansas City” by Diane Euston, Martin City Telegraph
“Roberts Aids Defense Pleas of an Alibi” The Kansas City Kansan, newspapers.com
“Denzel Chester Freed of Murder” Sacramento Union, California Digital Newspaper Collection