Even before the July 2022 video conference on the Tylenol murders, DuPage County prosecutors know about another suspect in the case.
On this, there is no doubt.
In 2010, two prosecutors — including one sitting in this very meeting — filed a secret petition to exhume the body of Roger Arnold from the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery and remove his femur bone for DNA testing. The request was made on behalf of Tylenol Task Force 2, a group of investigators who had reopened the case in 2006 ahead of the 25th anniversary of the killings.
The request details the evidence against Arnold, including the job he had before the 1982 poisonings and a murder he committed after. It has remained under seal ever since a judge granted it that same day.
“Roger Arnold,” the petition states, “was identified as a suspect by both Task Force 1 and 2 because of reports that he had made threats to (poison) others around the time of the Cyanide Poisonings.”
And that’s just a small part of Roger Arnold’s story.
A disheveled man with thick glasses and a beard, Roger Arnold could often be found in the early 1980s on a Chicago bar stool, spinning stories about his military service and his chemistry hobby.
Marty Sinclair, who owned a shot-and-a-beer joint on Lincoln Avenue called the Oxford Pub, thought his customer was a bit odd. And after Arnold’s marriage crumbled in the summer of 1982, he’d grown more erratic, Sinclair told police.
In fact, one nearby tavern owner had called police that June and accused Arnold of threatening him with a gun when the man tried to break up a bar fight.
And so, a week after seven people died from taking poisoned Tylenol capsules, Sinclair didn’t hesitate to tip off police when he heard from a couple of his regulars that Arnold had cyanide in his home.
A Chicago police report summarized Sinclair’s Oct. 6 call: “The subject was recently divorced and is despondent. (Arnold) supposedly picked up a quantity of cyanide (two 16 oz. bottles) six months ago and said that he was working on a project.”
The tip would divide authorities who were working to uncover the identity of the Tylenol killer, leading them on two separate investigative paths and cementing a rift between the FBI and Chicago police.
After being publicly identified as a Tylenol suspect, Arnold became consumed with rage and later shot an innocent man. John Stanisha would become, in effect, the eighth victim in the Tylenol murders.
Years went by before the slain man’s children would take Tylenol again. His youngest child, Laurie Edling, said the brand name was a constant reminder of their loss.
“It was like swallowing sadness and grief,” she said.
Arnold was never charged in the poisonings, but he did go to prison for murder. About a decade after his release, he died of natural causes in 2008.
Arnold went to his grave denying any involvement in the fatal poisonings. But, even after his death, the Tylenol investigation wasn’t done with him. Three Chicago police detectives who investigated him after Sinclair’s phone call told the Tribune they still believe he is the Tylenol killer.
Only one of the seven victims in the Tylenol killings died in Chicago: Paula Prince, a vivacious 35-year-old flight attendant whose body was found in her Old Town condominium — not far from the stretch of Lincoln Avenue where Arnold liked to drink.
Her murder meant Chicago police would join a massive task force that already included suburban law enforcement, the state police and the FBI.
Chicago Detectives Charlie Ford and Jimmy Gildea were put in charge of the Prince case. But it took only one or two task force meetings before the longtime partners decided they didn’t want to be there.
Besides the tedious commute to the meetings, held in the northwest suburbs, they weren’t impressed with the circuslike atmosphere, where they said reporters often outnumbered police.
“It was a dog and pony show for the news,” Ford said of the task force, which included more than 100 investigators.
They also weren’t too keen about working with the FBI or others who they thought might potentially interfere with their investigation. So while Ford and Gildea hunted for Prince’s killer in the city, their superiors sent a couple other Chicago detectives to monitor the task force’s efforts in the suburbs.
The Chicago Police Department set up its own Tylenol tip line, and with Johnson & Johnson’s offer of a $100,000 reward, the phones soon started ringing off the hook.
“We had like 10 or 15 more guys up in my office and they were strictly there to field all the phone calls,” Ford said. “You’d get guys with psychics, ‘Oh, it’s a woman with a red hat with a kangaroo on her back.’ … Every whack job on the planet Earth comes out on big cases. … (You’ve) got to filter through the junk.”
Then, at 1 a.m. on Oct. 6, Sinclair — the Lincoln Avenue tavern owner — dropped a dime on Arnold.
“He tells us essentially that one of the semi-regulars that comes in there is kind of an ‘off’ guy,” Gildea said. “He said (Arnold) was sitting at the bar talking to people and he had … white powder. And he goes, ‘You can kill people and nobody would ever know.’ And stuff like that.”
Police asked Sinclair to call the next time he spotted Arnold. They also walked up and down the strip asking bartenders to be on the lookout.
They didn’t have to wait long. Five nights later, Arnold showed up at Lilly’s, another Lincoln Avenue bar, and someone notified police. The detectives picked him up about 7 p.m. and brought him to Area 6 headquarters near Belmont and Western.
Seated in an interview room with cement-block walls, the two detectives sized up their 48-year-old suspect. He didn’t have a criminal record, so it struck them as odd that Arnold seemed so at ease with answering their questions. No sweating, no stammering, no demands for a lawyer — even though he clearly was being questioned in what Ford called “the crime of the century.”
Ford and Gildea delved into his life.
Adopted as a baby and raised in Chicago as an only child in a working-class family, Arnold dropped out of school in the seventh grade and worked a series of odd jobs before enlisting in the Army in 1957. He served two years before earning an honorable discharge, records show. He told people he was a demolitions expert in the military. In reality, he was a quartermaster providing fellow soldiers with clothing and bedding.
Arnold had been married to his wife, Dolores, for 12 years when she filed for divorce in December 1981, three days before Christmas. She accused him of mental and physical cruelty, according to court documents.
He denied the claim, filed a counter petition and testified in court that his wife struggled with mental illness and often belittled him in front of others. But with no children, the former couple had little to haggle over in the divorce. They agreed she would get their home in west suburban Villa Park and he’d keep his pension when he retired from Jewel.
The divorce left Arnold largely alone in the world. Both his parents were dead. Co-workers described him as a loner.
“He just struck me as being real resentful of his lot in life,” Gildea said. “The fact that he lost his house, his wife … I think he was kind of a broken little man, really.”
The detectives also discovered several circumstantial links between Arnold and the Tylenol case.
Two of the eight tainted Tylenol bottles came from Jewel stores in the northwest suburbs, though neither had passed through the Melrose Park warehouse where Arnold had long worked for Jewel as a dockhand.
The father of poisoning victim Mary “Lynn” Reiner worked for about a year at the same warehouse as Arnold. They both lived in Villa Park, a west suburban town where the grocery chain was considered one of the community’s most reliable employers. The two men ate lunch together occasionally, and Arnold bummed rides from him when his car wasn’t running properly, according to police records.
In addition, police said Dolores Arnold — who died in 1995 — had been treated at a psychiatric hospital across the street from the Winfield grocery store where Reiner bought her Tylenol. Arnold’s ex-wife told police he had visited her at the hospital several times, though public records did not reveal the timing of his visits.
Roger Arnold had moved back to Chicago months before the poisonings, but he was familiar with the west suburbs, the detectives noted. Three of the eight Tylenol bottles were thought to have been sold in stores in DuPage County, and two of the victims lived in the area.
Finally, two tainted bottles were recovered in Chicago, including the one Prince bought the night of her death at a Walgreens within walking distance of the Lincoln Avenue bars that Arnold frequented.
In the interview room, Ford and Gildea tried to build a rapport with their suspect.
Arnold acknowledged he had bought potassium cyanide from a mail order company in Wisconsin earlier that year. The self-described amateur chemist said he liked to conduct experiments.
But Arnold said he threw the cyanide away three months earlier “as he was having trouble with his wife (ex) and didn’t want the stuff around,” the records said.
He denied involvement in the Tylenol murders. But the detectives said his docile demeanor during the interrogation piqued their interest, especially when he suggested it would be easy to open the capsules and fill them with cyanide.
“We can see right away, looking at the guy, he wasn’t wired too tight. He was a little wacky,” Ford said. “And we kind of schmooze the guy: … ‘Only a criminal mastermind could do this,’ and ‘This guy had to be a genius.’ We’re puffing him up a little bit.”
The approach apparently worked. Arnold signed a consent form that night allowing the detectives to search his South Side home without the hassle of waiting for a warrant, records show. The detectives brought Arnold with them.
Inside the house in the McKinley Park neighborhood, the detectives found several unlicensed handguns, a rifle, a bag of white powder, a catalog from a laboratory company with various chemicals circled, and several beakers, vials, funnels and test tubes, records show.
Arnold also owned books, magazines and manuals about making homemade explosives, detonators, drugs and poisons. One book, “The Poor Man’s James Bond,” included instructions on how to make potassium cyanide.
To test out a homemade poison, the book suggested putting it “into an enemy’s medicine cabinet contained in capsules,” according to court records.
Police also found Arnold had a one-way ticket to Thailand. It showed a departure date of Oct. 15 — just days away. Arnold frequently traveled there to partake in the sex trade, the detectives learned.
Gildea said Arnold “checked all the boxes.” But the books, the Tylenol connections, the barroom chatter, the one-way ticket — it was all circumstantial evidence. They had nothing concrete that connected him to the poisonings. The detectives knew they needed a confession.
“We thought this might be the guy. He’s got the means and the knowledge and the how-to books and all that,” Gildea said. “We certainly couldn’t eliminate him.”
The detectives knew a lot was riding on what happened when they returned to the interview room.
On the way back to the police station, they stopped with Arnold to buy him a breaded steak sandwich from Ricobene’s — a South Side delicacy. Arnold had requested the meal, and the detectives obliged, hoping the monster sandwich with red gravy would get him talking.
“You wine them and you dine them. It’s like you’re going out on a date,” Ford said, laughing, “except going to first base with them puts them in a penitentiary.”
But the detectives said they never had a chance to interrogate Arnold about the poisonings. According to Gildea, while they were busy organizing and documenting the evidence they had brought back to the station, some of their superiors began questioning Arnold without their knowledge.
Word of what Gildea and Ford had found in his home had spread, they said, and Police Department brass wanted to be the ones to get the confession. Outranked, the detectives said they were unable to get Arnold in a room alone again. The interference stymied the investigation, according to Ford.
“It was like a parade of fools,” he said. “And, finally, by the time they got done, he’s demanding an attorney … and now he clams up.”
Ford continued: “Now, maybe he would’ve confessed to us, maybe he wouldn’t. But I would have given it at least a 50-50 shot that he would have confessed if we’d been able to sit there and schmooze him some more.”
Police arrested Arnold on five charges of failure to register his firearms, all misdemeanors. They also contacted the bar owner who had reported that Arnold threatened him with a gun during a June bar brawl. Police persuaded the man to come to the police station Oct. 12 to sign an official complaint for aggravated assault.
But authorities couldn’t hold Arnold at the station much longer without more serious charges. And tests on the white powder found in his home later identified it as potassium carbonate, not cyanide.
By Oct. 13, the Tylenol task force began assisting Chicago police with the Arnold lead.
Illinois Attorney General Ty Fahner, as head of the task force, pushed for a second search of the suspect’s home, this time obtaining an official search warrant that described Sinclair’s tip and all the evidence police found in Arnold’s home during the first search. It also noted that a Jewel supervisor told police Arnold had recently said he “was mad at people and wanted to throw acid at them or poison them.”
Ford, Gildea and some task force agents went back to the house again late at night. The detectives said they didn’t find anything new of substance but, by now, television cameras were waiting outside to catch the action. Someone had leaked Arnold’s name to the media. His name and photograph were printed in newspapers and appeared in television broadcasts across the country.
Police continued to try to build their case. They searched Arnold’s garage, his car, his locker at Jewel.
They interviewed his former wife, Dolores Arnold, who said she did not think he was capable of the Tylenol murders. As for his chemistry hobby, she recalled “accepting boxes of chemicals” a few times at their home, but “she did not know what the chemicals were or what her husband did with them,” according to a police report.
His work file showed he was punctual, rarely took a day off and had only one minor reprimand in a dozen years on the job. One co-worker described Arnold to police as a loner who often appeared unkempt and who “thought of himself as a rebel to the norms of society.”
Investigators reported they were told Arnold disliked authority, especially police, and was immature with a “quick temper and easily frustrated if things did not go his way.” One police record stated that Arnold supposedly had asked a student nurse working at Jewel for the summer if she could get body parts so he could place them around the Chicago area “to frustrate the police.”
Police had Arnold in custody for two days. His lawyer filed a petition demanding that Arnold be brought before a judge and authorities explain their reason for holding him.
The court hearing was scheduled for late Oct. 13, around the time police had secured the warrant to go back to Arnold’s house for their second search. As Arnold waited for the court proceedings to begin, he asked a Chicago police sergeant to tell him “who had informed on him as to having the cyanide,” according to a police report.
“Arnold made a statement that he ‘would like to be in on the homicide of that guy for what he had done to me,’ ” the sergeant said, according to the report.
After the hearing, a judge set bond. Arnold posted the required $600 cash and was released. He was a free man.
Authorities planned to keep tabs on him. They kept his guns, too, because of the alleged registration violations. Ford and Gildea worked other Tylenol tips for the next several weeks, then moved on to other homicides.
Arnold tried to move on too. He went back to work in November. But his life would never be the same.
“(My) name and picture had been in the newspapers across the country, usually in the first breath of a phrase, ‘A prime suspect in the Tylenol murders,’ ” Arnold wrote several years later in a legal filing.
“(I) was used as a suspect to give the general public release from its fears caused by the grisly slayings,” he continued. “(My) life was scrutinized, like under a microscope, and the information was devoured by the media. (My) reputation and life stability was destroyed.”
He said his neighbors gawked, making him feel like a “freak,” and teens tossed debris at his home after newspapers published his address. He felt alienated from friends and co-workers. Arnold became paranoid, believing that the authorities were bugging his house and his attorney’s law firm — an unsubstantiated allegation.
Arnold said he bought a .45-caliber pistol to protect himself from vigilantes in April 1983. Still reeling from his divorce and the loss of his marital home, he complained about mounting legal debts — more than $10,000, he wrote.
“(I) was clinically depressed and drinking heavily every night,” he wrote. His anger and rage consumed him. His wrath, he said, centered on one man: Marty Sinclair.
Arnold had learned it was Sinclair who gave his name to police when his attorney gave him a copy of his police file after his release from custody. The records included Ford’s search warrant, which named Sinclair.
On June 17, 1983, Arnold began drinking about 7 p.m. at Lilly’s. He had his gun with him. Three hours later, someone told him, “Watch out, Marty Sinclair is in here,” according to court records.
Arnold said he left the bar and headed to a Mexican restaurant up the street. He returned to Lilly’s around closing time, he said, after realizing he’d left his cigarette lighter there.
Then Arnold thought he spotted the man he hated, Sinclair, walking with friends on Lincoln Avenue. “(I) was thinking that this was going to be the end of this mess,” Arnold wrote.
In actuality, the man outside Lilly’s was someone else. It was 46-year-old John Stanisha, who like Sinclair was heavyset, sported a beard and hung out in the area.
Arnold confronted him. “(I) called out to who (I) thought was Sinclair and said, ‘Marty, did you turn me in?’ ”
Standing within 5 feet of Stanisha, Arnold pulled the gun from his waistband and fired a bullet into the man’s chest. As Stanisha lay bleeding, his friends later told police, he begged God not to let him die.
Raised as an only child in a Catholic household near Midway Airport, Stanisha was so bright that he skipped a couple grades, according to daughter Laurie Edling. A graduate of DePaul University, Stanisha was a computer programmer before it was a common occupation.
“He was kind of ahead of his time that way,” Edling said.
Stanisha met his wife, Loretta, while bowling in a league with her father. The young couple married in 1960 and raised three daughters in Chicago’s Mount Greenwood neighborhood before divorcing in 1971. Stanisha then moved to the North Side.
Edling described him as “the cool dad.” He taught her how to drive. He took her two sisters to a Bruce Springsteen concert on a school night and let Edling, at 13, tag along with him on a business trip to New York City in 1980.
Music was a touchstone in her father’s life, Edling said. He loved classic rock and folk music. In fact, his girls often sat alongside him, sipping root beer, at the popular folk club Earl of Old Town while watching Steve Goodman, John Prine, Bonnie Koloc and other greats perform.
Edling said Steely Dan’s “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” still makes her think of her dad. “I can remember driving down the Dan Ryan (expressway) with him with that song blasting,” she said. “My dad would roll down all the windows and turn up the radio loud.”
Stanisha had begun his Friday night by commiserating with co-workers. Their company had new owners, and several of his friends had lost their jobs. He next caught up with three buddies, including Earl J.J. Pionke, who owned the Earl of Old Town.
The men were walking south toward Pionke’s bar on North Wells Street when Arnold approached and opened fire. The bullet exited Stanisha’s shoulder. He fell to the sidewalk and told his friends, “I’ve been shot.”
One of Stanisha’s buddies followed Arnold and noted the license plate of his red 1978 Chevy as he sped off. Arnold tossed the gun into a branch of the Chicago River at 35th Street, he later admitted, before winding up in a motel in Indiana.
Early the next morning, after speaking to his lawyer, Arnold surrendered to police. He was wearing jeans and a T-shirt that read “Pattaya, Thailand.”
The bullet he fired had pierced Stanisha’s heart. In Stanisha’s final moments, he realized he was dying, his friends later told police and a jury.
Edling, just 16 at the time, said she and her sisters had planned to spend that Sunday barbecuing with their father at his parents’ home in Chicago’s Garfield Ridge community. It was Father’s Day weekend.
Nearly 40 years later, she told the Tribune, she still can hear the sound of the phone ringing unusually early that Saturday morning. Moments later, her mother came into her bedroom and broke the news about her father.
Her paternal grandparents were elderly. Her parents were divorced. And so it was left to the teenage girl as the next-of-kin to identify her father’s body at the morgue later that afternoon. She also helped pick out a casket — blue, her dad’s favorite color.
Edling still went to her grandparents’ house that Sunday. But instead of celebrating in the flower-filled backyard, they gathered in grief and shock, readying themselves for the upcoming memorial services.
Seated in a pew at Stanisha’s funeral Mass, Edling spotted a bearded man walking up to receive Communion. He was one of the last people in a very long line.
Edling’s jaw dropped. He looked just like her father, she said.
It was Marty Sinclair.
“I have thought a lot about him over the years,” she said of Sinclair. “And I think about how much courage it took to go to the funeral of someone who was murdered when you knew that was supposed to be you.”
Though she has never met Sinclair, Edling said, she hopes he knows that her family never blamed him for her father’s death. To her knowledge, the two men did not know each other.
Edling said Sinclair was right to call police with the tip about Arnold. Her father would have done the same thing, she said. “That was the right thing to do. That was what anyone who was responsible would do.”
Now 80, Sinclair declined to comment when contacted by the Tribune this year.
The year after her father’s death, Edling went off to college in his maroon 1978 Cadillac. During her freshman year, the car was stolen. The police recovered it, but it had been “gutted.” She felt gutted too.
“I spent the whole day in bed crying,” she said.
For years, she kept a candy jar she had bought to give him that Father’s Day as a gift but never got the chance. It had a figure of a bearded man on the lid that looked just like her dad. She had filled the jar with jelly beans.
Edling said the old candy jar eventually broke during a move several years later. But she still has her father’s star sapphire cuff links and a rosary made from his funeral flowers. She holds it while praying, and it brings her comfort.
Gildea was on duty the weekend of Stanisha’s murder. At the police station, one of his co-workers told him: “Hey, your friend Arnold is locked up.”
Gildea said he looked at a photo of the victim and instantly recognized the man’s resemblance to the tipster, Sinclair. The detective said he went into the interview room and showed Arnold the driver’s license of the man Arnold had just shot to death.
“He starts crying like a baby,” Gildea said. “And I said, ‘This guy’s got … kids and you just killed him.’ And he just broke down, started crying, was inconsolable really, because he realized he killed the wrong man.”
At his trial, Arnold testified he mistook Stanisha for Sinclair. Sinclair also testified. He confirmed he had provided Arnold’s name to police. He also told jurors he had seen Arnold several times inside his bar afterward but did not on the night of the shooting.
After four hours of jury deliberations, Arnold was convicted of murder on Jan. 11, 1984. He received 30 years in prison, but under sentencing laws at the time he would be eligible for parole after serving half the term.
In a petition for clemency he filed several years after his conviction, Arnold admitted he “killed an innocent man that did him no harm.” He apologized but said, “sorry really doesn’t cut it.”
Several of his friends told the Tribune his crime was impulsive, fueled by alcoholism and depression. They do not think he was capable of the Tylenol killings.
The state-led task force publicly ruled Arnold out as a suspect shortly after his arrest for the misdemeanor crimes, in large part because no one could land on a definitive motive. A renowned FBI criminal profiler, however, second-guessed that decision in a lengthy analysis of the case obtained by the Tribune.
“For some reason it is apparently difficult to believe this unkempt and enigmatic individual could be the killer, yet he possesses all the capabilities and attributes necessary to have placed the poison on the shelves of the affected stores,” Pierce Brooks, who would go on to create the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, wrote in the spring of 1983.
Brooks ticked off a list of reasons why Arnold could be the killer, including his prior statements about wanting to poison people and his familiarity with the areas where several tainted bottles were sold. The profiler suggested agents reexamine the case, including speaking with Arnold’s ex-wife and finding out more about the cyanide he had purchased from Wisconsin.
The FBI denied a request for records related to Arnold, making it difficult to know whether anyone took that second look.
But Ford and Gildea never let go of their lead.
And neither did other Chicago police detectives involved in the case.
Phillip Mannion, the lead investigator on the Stanisha murder, told the Tribune that after Arnold was convicted, his attorney approached Mannion and suggested that Arnold might be interested in talking about the Tylenol murders if his appeals didn’t work out. Mannion found the offer more than a little telling.
“Why wait until after the appeals are over?” asked Mannion, who retired in 2005. “If you have information that could help, why would you wait until you’re sure your other murder conviction won’t get tossed. You wouldn’t — unless you did it.”
Arnold’s attorney, Thomas Royce, died in 2009.
Mannion shared the offer with Ford and Gildea, who found it equally suspicious.
They asked Cook County prosecutors if they could arrange for Arnold to serve his sentence in a less-restrictive prison, where they hoped to continue questioning him.
But Ford and Gildea said their request was denied. They said prosecutors reported back that the U.S. attorney’s office wasn’t interested in chasing the Arnold lead.
“Well, they call up the feds and the FBI says, ‘No, he’s not the guy,’ ” Ford said. “So that was it.”
The detectives have a theory as to why.
The same day that Sinclair called in his tip about Arnold — Oct. 6, 1982 — the task force learned that the maker of Tylenol had received an extortion letter demanding $1 million to “stop the killing.”
The man behind the extortion letter quickly became the main suspect for task force leaders, especially the FBI and state police.
Nothing that happened over the next four decades has changed their minds.
Roy Lane Jr., a retired FBI agent who is the only member of the original task force to be involved when the Tylenol investigation was rebooted in 2006, said Arnold’s unusual personality and behavior weren’t enough to convince him that Arnold was behind the poisonings.
Ford retired in 2000 after a 31-year career. Gildea, the younger of the two detectives, left the force a decade later, having served more than 40 years.
If the FBI’s other suspect is proved to be the killer, both men said they’d applaud their federal and state colleagues. Neither played a role in Tylenol task force investigations in later years, and so they were not made aware of possible developments.
Ford, who died this year after granting what would mark his final interview about Tylenol, didn’t mince words when asked whether he thought the man behind the extortion letter would ever be charged.
“I think you’ll have better luck running Richard Nixon for president again than the chances of that happening,” he said.
In his mind, he and Gildea had the right guy. “All the pieces, all the tips, all the clues, all the arrows, they all pointed toward him,” he said of Arnold. “Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.”
On the 25th anniversary of the Tylenol murders, Chicago police did a cold case review of Paula Prince’s murder. They put their findings in a box, along with a thick pile of old typewritten police reports, and gave them to an FBI-led task force that also was reexamining the killings.
When the task force investigators opened the box, they found what many considered to be a not-so-subtle message from their Chicago counterparts. On the very top of the pile was a black-and-white mug shot of a bearded, bespectacled man.
It was Roger Arnold.
Next week: An extortion letter arrives, and a new suspect emerges.
Source : https://www.chicagotribune.com/investigations/ct-tylenol-murders-chicago-police-roger-arnold-20220929-jbxjioufmzay3g2fmvxsn54gru-htmlstory.html#ed=rss_www.chicagotribune.com/arcio/rss/category/news/