Friday, August 7, 2009

Un-Grand Openings

I can't open anything and I blame James Lewis.

His birthday is tomorrow, I found out, and I'd like to send him a little present---the contents of which I can't print in a family blog.

You can't open anything, either---this I know and can declare confidently. Everything from a CD or DVD package to the inner bag of a cereal box to a bottle of pills---all of them are tightly packaged to the point of cruelty.

Ahh, the pills.

That's what started this whole thing.

The next time you curse at something that you can't open---and that should be anytime within the next four minutes---I'm telling you that you now have a person toward whom to direct your frustration and anger.

He's the aforementioned Lewis.

Lewis is the likely perpetrator (though authorities don't have quite enough evidence to charge him formally) of the 1982 Tylenol poisonings.

Within a two-week period in fall, 1982, seven people in the Chicago area died after ingesting Extra Strength Tylenol capsules that had been laced with potassium cyanide.

Lewis, who was convicted of extortion after he sent a letter demanding $1 million to stop the killings, has gone back and forth from being a prime suspect to not a suspect at all in the poisonings.

Now he's a prime suspect again.

Earlier this year, information came to light that refuted an earlier belief about Lewis---his maintaining that he was living in New York at the time of the killings and therefore could not have physically tampered with the Tylenol bottles in Illinois. Lewis said he had sent the extortion letter, which demanded funds be deposited into a Continental Illinois Bank account, as a way of getting authorities to investigate Continental.

The new information about Lewis? That he, indeed, had lived in the Chicago area in the early-1980s, under a series of assumed names.

Still, there's not enough evidence to convict him.


The free, but not guilt-free, James Lewis


Because of the Tylenol deaths, packaging changed dramatically in this country---and not just for medications. The word "tamper" was re-introduced to our lexicon, and everything was packaged to be "tamper proof."

EVERYTHING.

Medications, I could see. No longer would a tuft of cotton be the only barrier to your aspirin and allergy medicine. Boxes would be double sealed, then shrink-wrapped. The bottles inside would be sealed with foil. If it was too easy to open, you were advised not to ingest the product.

Fine.

But this zeal extended to other products as well---even those you didn't use internally.

Now, you can't open anything without using God's name in vain.

To make you even more angry about Lewis, he's had a life of escaping justice.

He did, indeed, serve prison time for the extortion attempt---12 years of a 20-year-sentence before being released on parole in 1995.

But other than that, it's been Lewis dodging one legal bullet after another.

In 1978, Lewis was charged with the murder and dismemberment of an elderly man, Raymond West, 72, of Kansas City. Charges were dropped in this murder case after the Jackson County Medical Examiner, Dr. Bonita Peterson, testified that there was no evidence of any homicide. Not sure what happened to the dismemberment charge, though.

In 2004, Lewis was charged with kidnapping and raping a woman in Cambridge, Mass. In 2007, after Lewis had spent three years in jail awaiting trial, the case was dropped by the District Attorney when the alleged victim refused to testify.

And now the lack of sufficient evidence to charge him in the Tylenol killings, even though authorities pretty much know that Lewis is guilty.

The guy's living a charmed life, I'd say.

Anyhow, he turns 63 tomorrow, come to find out.

It'd be great if he didn't make it, but that's not very Christian of me, is it?

But let's see how Christian YOU are about Mr. Lewis, the next time you struggle to open a bag of cookies or a vacuum-sealed bottle of Wite-Out, now that you know who you have to blame.

When he does go, they should shrink-wrap his coffin and seal it inside a "tamper-proof" vault.

Still would be better to do those things to him while he's alive.

Sorry, God.

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