Chicago Police Superintendent Richard Brzeczek said today that a suspect in an extortion attempt against the makers of Tylenol is not a suspect in the Tylenol killings themselves.
"There is no evidence to tie him in to the Tylenol" killings even though the suspect resembles a man photographed in a drugstore as cyanide victim Paula Prince purchased her fatal capsules.
"We have no prime suspects," the superintendent said. "We have no suspects. . . . We have no mediocre suspects. We have no suspects period."
He said the photograph showing Prince and a bearded man in a Northside Chicago drugstore has been sent to the FBI's special photo analysis lab in Washington. But asked if he felt the man in the photo was James W. Lewis, the extortion suspect, Brzeczek said, "I just don't know."
However, a former employer of Lewis, who is sought on warrants in connection with a $1 million extortion attempt against McNeil Products, Inc., makers of Tylenol, said today in an interview that the man in the photo is not Lewis.
Ed Leavitt, who employed Lewis in his income tax service for six weeks, said, "I saw a blowup of the picture. That's not him. I'd bet anything on it, that's not the man." Leavitt said the man in the picture is more stocky, has a differently shaped beard, a different hairline and shoulders that slope too much.
Lewis once blamed the manufacturer of Tylenol for the death of his 5-year-old daughter from heart disease in 1974, The Memphis Commercial Appeal reported Wednesday. "Jimmy blamed Johnson & Johnson for the death, apparently because of the medication the little girl was taking," police Sgt. Jake Dyer of Carl Junction, Mo., told the newspaper.
Chicago investigators declined to comment on the report.
Brzeczek's comments on Lewis conflict with the statement of Illinois Attorney General Tyrone Fahner, who is in charge of the investigation of the seven murders of Chicago residents who died after taking Tylenol tainted with cyanide.
Fahner has called Lewis and his wife "prime suspects" in the case and "suspects by any definition" of the term. Fahner, who was appointed attorney general after the previous occupant of the job was convicted of tax fraud, is in the midst of an election campaign where he has picked up 10 points after appearing daily on television with the latest Tylenol news.
An FBI spokesman in Washington said a number of things can be determined even with an indistinct photo like that from the drugstore security camera.
He said the height and build of a person and several distinct facial features usually can be drawn out from a picture. He said he did not know how long it would take to examine the drugstore photo.
Investigators have described Lewis as being 6 foot 1 and weighing about 170 pounds. Leavitt and Kline both suggested the man in the photo is stockier and shorter than that.
The photo was taken Sept. 29 in a Walgreen's store in Chicago. It shows a bearded man in a light-colored jacket with an insignia on the left chest. The man is apparently looking in the direction of 35-year-old Prince who is standing in line at a checkout counter. Brzeczek said police have positively identified the woman as Prince.
Investigators are continuing to seek Lewis, 36, and his wife LeAnn, 35. Brzeczek said the search is being conducted nationwide though the Lewises may have been spotted over the weekend. He would not elaborate.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported Wednesday that residents and employes of a New York City hotel identified Lewis and his wife as having stayed at the hotel from Sept. 20 until last Thursday.