Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bad Medicine

((AND THE WINNERS Of Annie Ward's BEAUTIFUL BAD are: Charlotte and Cathy Akers-Jordan! YAAAYYY!  email me your addresses to h ryan at whdh dot com! ))

and now:

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: In 1982, a loaf of bread cost 50 cents. The first USA Today was printed. Epcot opened, ET was on the big screen, and the first CD player was sold in Japan. AT &T was ordered to break up. The Dow closed at year end at 1046, and things were not looking good financially.

And something else happened in 1982. Kathy Valenti remembers it, and I bet you do, too.



Bad Medicine

By Kathy Valenti


When I was twelve, my favorite movie was E.T, I pined for a Walkman despite the fact that I still played with my Barbie Townhouse, and Mary Kellerman awoke with a sore throat.


So you know, here's me, circa 1982. 

Kathy, circa 1982

Like me, Mary was twelve. Like me, Mary went to junior high, wore her hair in the era’s round, turned-under style, and probably whispered about boys with her friends.

Unlike me, Mary Kellerman, who lived half a world away in a Chicago suburb, died after parents gave her an Extra-Strength Tylenol to soothe the discomfort of an oncoming cold.

Mary Kellerman was the first victim of the Tylenol murders. She was the proverbial canary in the coal mine whose death heralded not only the demise of six more poisoning victims, but a wholesale change in the way medicine is packaged. And in our faith of what’s on the shelf.

I remember those murders distinctly.




My mom had a bottle of Extra-Strength Tylenol in our medicine cabinet. My dad had another one squirreled away in his glove box. When he refused to chuck the pills, proclaiming that surely his bottle was untainted, I remember being filled with a diffuse and undeniable dread.


What if our medication wasn’t safe? What if we weren’t?




It was my earliest memory of the potential of random violence, a disquiet that squatted in the center of my chest like a living thing. I had learned that the world didn’t care if you were twelve and wanted to buy Michael Jackson’s Thriller album. I had learned that bad things happen to good people. Young people. People just like me.

I didn’t intend to write a book inspired by this experience, these recollections, and yet here it is. It was as if As Directed, the third book in my Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, was a slow-acting drug, lying in wait for decades before coursing its way to my heart.

The truth is, Maggie made me do it. My protagonist was the catalyst, the active ingredient, if you will, that brought this story to light.

When Maggie traded the lab for a stint behind the counter as a pharmacy tech, I knew I had to bring the issue of tainted medication to the fore. Not only would this theme enable me to tap into my own adolescent memories, it would allow evil to infiltrate the safe, new world Maggie was trying so desperately to build, cause her to question her role in the patient poisonings, and force her to confront her deepest fears and greatest hopes.

  In As Directed, Maggie’s most difficult job doesn’t just come from her work behind the counter or in helping solve the mystery of these deaths. It’s comes from facing two grim facts:

1. Safety is often an illusion

2. Sometimes the greatest danger comes from the most unexpected places—even from within.

Because she’s recovering from a head injury, Maggie must come to terms with the possibility that she may share responsibility in drugstore deaths.

Had she properly handled the medications?

Had she mated the right label to the correct bottle?

She thinks so, but can’t quite remember. Her injury has left her a little fuzzy, like a television gone to snow.

On its face, As Directed is a story of poison and betrayal, and a nod to chaos and fear of the Tylenol Murders. But beneath these motifs is a question of trust. Can we trust others? Can we trust the world at large? Can we truly trust ourselves?

Writing this book allowed me to delve deeper, explore difficult topics and broader themes, and, in some ways, re-examine these infamous murders of the early 80s. The process may not have comforted my 12 year-old self, but it did give me insight into what makes good people do bad things and, conversely, how the antidote to life’s poisons is so often found in our relationships with others and a belief in ourselves.


HANK: Okay, now I’m terrified. I’m already terrified enough at the drug store, so thanks a lot, pal. And don’t we all remember the Tylenol disaster? SO deeply disturbing, and changed the way we look at everything.

And in case you’re wondering. Wikipedia says: No suspect was ever charged or convicted of the poisonings. New York City resident James William Lewis was considered the prime suspect, and was convicted of extortion for sending a letter to Johnson & Johnson that took credit for the deaths and demanded $1 million to stop them.

(I’m wincing now, remembering Monday’s post about all the medications I took for my cold. Yikes.)


Were there any crimes that haunted you as a kid? Do you remember the first crime you ever heard of, the one that stuck in your brain? I grew up in Indianapolis, and the name Sylvia Likens still gives me chills.

How about you? Do you still buy romaine? Do you watch for food recalls? And what's your theory of the Tylenol case? (And aren't we a fun group?)


And a copy of Kathy’s new AS DIRECTED to one lucky commenter!



About As Directed:
In the shadow of a past fraught with danger and tainted by loss, former pharmaceutical researcher Maggie O’Malley is rebuilding her life, trading test tubes for pill bottles as she embarks on a new career at the corner drugstore. But as she spreads her wings, things begin to go terribly wrong. A customer falls ill in the store. Followed by another. And then more. The specter of poisoning arises, conjuring old grudges, past sins, buried secrets and new suspicions from which no one is immune. As Maggie and her best friend Constantine begin to investigate, they discover that some of the deadliest doses come from the most unexpected places.
“A chilling game of cat and mouse that moves with lightning speed and stunning twists. Lies, secrets and evil spin a deadly web in this gripping tale of malice and deceit.”
Liv Constantine
Bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
Amazon: amzn.to/2RvGgar
Barnes: bit.ly/2RzA80F

About the Author
Kathleen Valenti is the author of the Maggie O’Malley Mystery Series, which includes her Agatha- and Lefty-nominated debut novel, Protocol, and soon-to-be released As Directed. When Kathleen isn’t writing page-turning mysteries that combine humor and suspense, she works as a nationally award-winning advertising copywriter. She lives in Oregon with her family where she pretends to enjoy running. Learn more at www.kathleenvalenti.com.

115 comments:

  1. “As Directed” sounds quite intriguing, Kathleen, and I’m looking forward to reading it.

    When I was about eleven, I remember the story about a little girl, found murdered in Arizona, that no one ever identified. They called her Little Miss Nobody, which I found incredibly sad.

    No, I don’t buy romaine, I pay attention to food recalls, and I remember the Tylenol case. I’ve always been reluctant to take medicine, more so when it became clear that it could be even more dangerous than I thought. I can’t imagine why anyone would choose to poison Tylenol, but then I suppose people do things for some very strange reasons. Still, it's quite chilling and it makes you wonder about what causes that sort of depravity . . . .

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    1. Little Miss nobody? Oh, I don’t remember that… Looking that up… Yes, agree, so very sad.

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    2. "Little Miss Nobody"...that is absolutely heartbreaking. Those are the kinds of stories that haunt me. As for Tylenol, I admit I still think about the poisonings every time I pick up a bottle from the shelf. I agree, it is so chilling!

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  2. Congrats on your upcoming book, Kathy! And gosh, how scary about the Tylenol murders. I'm trying to think of the first crime I heard of. It would probably have to be the Gainesville murders. So scary. Even scarier when the person is never caught.

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    1. Another crime I have not heard of! I suppose that is a good thing… and that person was never caught?

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    2. The person responsible for the Gainesville murders was caught, thankfully. Google says the murders happened in 1990. They involved University of Florida students, and I remember hearing about parents pulling their kids from school at the time.

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    3. This is lodged in the back of my memory somewhere… I guess it can stay there :-)

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    4. Hi Marla! Great to "see" you. :) The Gainesville murders! I remember them, too. My husband is from Gainesville, and he talked the swath of fear they cut through the community. (shudder)

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  3. My family lived in the San Francisco area during the era of the Zodiac Killer. I remember asking my mother if we were in danger.... she said he chose a certain age victim, and she was too old and I was too young, so I put it out of my 7 year old mind. I remember the Tylenol murders and thinking how lucky I was to be allergic to Tylenol...as all my friends came begging for the aspirin I always carried.

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    1. That is the smartest mom! And I can understand how little you would latch onto that with all certainty. Aww.

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    2. Hi, Mary! Ditto what Hank said: your mom was so wise to answer your fearful question in that way. So smart!

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  4. Kathy, the book sounds really gripping!

    As for crimes that stuck with me as a kid, I can't really think of one off the top of my head. Given that my dad was a cop, that might seem strange but I figure I was a kid and if it didn't involve me I likely didn't give it any thought.

    I have a vague memory of the first crime that I can recall though. It was a murder here in my town. A girl was murdered. I can't remember the name of the victim at the moment but since the town wasn't really a haven for crime back when I was a kid, it was big news around here.

    Oh, and I don't buy romaine lettuce but since I don't eat veggies that is not because of the recall. I do hear the news about food recalls or reports of bad stuff found in foods that I do eat (Can you believe that now we aren't supposed to eat Cheerios now?)

    No theory on the Tylenol case from me though.

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    1. I forgot your dad was a cop! Did that make you feel safer?
      And oh dear, what about Cheerios?

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    2. Hank, no it didn't make me feel safer. Growing up it sucked because I always got crap from others who thought I'd get away with trouble because he was a cop. It sucked because it was quite the opposite.

      As for Cheerios, there's some ingredient in Cheerios that is also found in Roundup. http://fortune.com/2018/08/15/roundup-in-cheerios-weed-killer/

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    3. Oh, maybe we could just put the Cheerios on our weeds! Very biodegradable!

      Yes, and I can’t imagine having a police officer for a father would be very very tough… Especially on a troublemaker like you :-) :-)

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    4. Jay, thank you so much!

      I so agree with you. When murder visits our small, "safe" towns, it can really rock our worlds, especially when we're kids. Double especially when the victim is a child, as well.

      And I had no idea about Cheerios! Are my Fruity Pebbles safe? (pleaseohpleaseohplease)

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    5. Hank,

      I loved that my dad was a cop just not that I got shit for it. There were a few times some idiot said something bad about him being a cop that made me fly off the handle as you might imagine.

      Troublemaker? Who me? Nooooooo.....

      Kathy, not sure about Fruity Pebbles. I really only paid attention to the cereals I ate instead of the whole list. As for the murder, I tried looking up the name of the person that was killed but can't seem to find it anywhere online.

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    6. I'll have to take a deeper dive into the list, Jay. If my sacred Pebbles are tainted, I wonder if I'll change my ways. I still find myself reaching for Fireball, despite its propylene glycol. What's a little antifreeze between friends?

      I find it difficult to dig up old murder info, too. I tried looking up local murders from my childhood, and...no love. If you find the deets, please report back! I'd love to know.

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  5. In 1982 I was out of college, and working my first "real" job as the press secretary and speechwriter for a Congressional candidate. I was listening to the news all the time back then, and vividly remember the Tylenol case. It changed the way we package medicine and all kinds of other products--sealing and taping and making it harder to fight your way through the box into the product itself. My youth happened back in the 1960s, and was littered with assassinations, and lurid spectacles like the Tate/LaBianca murders. By 1982 I had read Ann Rule's classic, "The Stranger Beside Me," and realized Ted Bundy was selecting victims who looked just like me. I still worry that inspirational leaders will be shot at public events, and I am very careful about where I go and who I talk to when I'm out alone in public. It has always seemed to me, on some low level of background awareness, that the world is full of danger and doesn't care if we get killed.

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    1. I so agree! There are so many possibilities of things that could happen, but the only way to manage is to not have that burden you every minute, right?

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    2. Hi Gigi! I am right there with you. I don't know if it's because I read so much mystery and watch so much true crime, but I do find myself hypervigilant at large gatherings. They make me NERVOUS. And wowza about fitting Bundy's victim profile! Eek!!

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    3. I think you have to be aware but not paranoid, Hank. And hey, if you have an instinct for figuring out how any given crowd situation could go disastrously wrong, you'll never be short of plot ideas, right? As for Bundy, he liked white college-age women with long dark hair, parted in the middle. Half the white college-age women in America fit that description back in the 1970s. I simply resolved not to help good-looking guys with their arms in a sling by walking them back to their tan VW Beetle.

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  6. We lived in married student housing when my husband was in grad school. After a female undergrad student was found dead in the university chapel under very suspicious circumstances, I was very conscious of my personal safety commuting on a bike, especially at night.

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    1. That would be so terrifying! Did they ever solve that?

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    2. https://news.stanford.edu/2018/06/29/break-cold-case/

      last summer! They were able to match the DNA samples with the church campus security guard. Finally. The victim lived in another building in our student housing complex. At the time, lots of theories about a Satanic ritual murder.

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    3. Wow about the terrible crime and wow-wow-wow that they were able to solve it years later! That must have been so terrifying that the victim lived in the same housing complex. Talk about something hitting close to home.

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  7. I remember the Tylenol poisonings. Vividly. Random violence. Plays out today with angry men taking out guns and shooting up strangers. Bombs blowing up in open markets. On a mundane level, I stopped buying chopped meat ages ago (remember Mad Cow?)

    Kathleen - I totally get how a random crime can imprint itself on you - it COULD HAPPEN TO ME or someone I love... and then if you have a good imagination you can what-if it into a novel. It's our way of controlling the unknown.

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    1. And remember how Tylenol handled that? Now often discussed as exactly the right way to take on a public relations disaster.

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    2. Hallie, I so agree! Random violence is played out differently now, but it's there, just the same. Being able to control the outcome with our books does help give us a sense of order, control and justice, doesn't it? I think that's part of why I like mystery so much, both as a reader and a writer.

      Hank, so true about Tylenol's response. Textbook of what a brand should do during a crisis.

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  8. Kathy, the book sounds great. Has also kicked off some really interesting stories here.

    When I was in high school, there was a guy picking up women on the West side of Columbus. He would take them to the country, tie them up, cut off all their clothes and maybe fondle them, but then just take them back to town and dump them. The media called him the West Side Slasher. When the case was solved, it was a guy I knew well, one or two grades ahead of me in high school. He came from a very religious family, lived a very conservative lifestyle, and was still debating between whether he wanted to become a doctor or a minister after college. If that's not all creepy enough, another mutual friend was pregnant at the time and, in the way it was in the 1970's, having to finish her education through night school. He gave her rides to school on several occasions, leaving us all wondering whether he would drop her at school and then go do his slashing thing. (It still gives me a shudder to think about it today.) Apparently the poor fellow was schizophrenic, acting on the voices in his head.

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    1. Omigod, Susan. your story literally gave me goose bumps. How awful.

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    2. Oh my gosh, so terrifying and creepy! So insidious. And you knew him… Wow. And to be that close to it… So unsettling.

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    3. Holy moly! That is seriously creepy. So glad he was caught. He could've been headed for even worse actions. (And hopefully he got some help!)

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  9. Gigi, sounds like you and I were influenced by a lot of the same events, although I'm a bit older than you are, I think. All those assassinations! I was watching TV the day Jack Ruby killed Oswald on live feed. It was the most shocking thing I'd ever seen, and the most shocking thing I was to see for many years.

    We had the Cincinnati Strangler in the 60's, but Hamilton was still a safe-feeling hour and a half drive away at the time. And he mostly targeted elderly women. Back then, that meant early 70's to the 80's. I remember taking a class field trip to the Cincinnati Morgue when I was in the Police Science program. We started the tour at police headquarters downtown, where we were shown case file slides of the murdered women. Gulp. I don't recall any specific individual, but the gruesome images haunted me for years.

    Whoever poisoned those Tylenol bottles has a lot to answer for. Not just the murders, which are horrible in themselves, and not just the paranoia we all now feel. I refer to the sheer waste of excess packaging, in an era when we should have been conserving instead of wasting precious resources. In the end, he (or she) may have contributed to the demise of our species in a very big way.

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    1. Oh, yes, and how many times do I get annoyed at the super difficult to open items? But we know why they do that and I guess we should be grateful for the safe packaging. But , a sealed plastic bottle in a sealed paper box? Yeah… You are so right.

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    2. Wow, a class field trip to the morgue! How fascinating...and frightening!! I remember some of those "scared straight" visits from the police to our high school when they'd show us photos of victims of overdose. I couldn't forget those images--and they were probably much less gruesome than what you saw! And so true about the waste of packaging. Such a shame!!

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    3. This was a college class, Kathy, in the winter of 1969-70. I was the youngest in the class, which was part of a two-year Associates-degreed program. It was really meant for Vietnam vets, of which most of the class was comprised, all on the GI Bill. I was one of two women.

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  10. I was only 9, but I do remember the Tylenol murders. My mother, a nurse, got rid of every bottle of Tylenol we had and wouldn't buy any for months. And the new "safety" caps drove her nuts when she did, but hey, it provided some level of reassurance. And I think we need that reassurance, even if it's only on the surface, to get through life. If we distrust EVERYTHING we'd go berserk.

    I do pay attention to food recalls (havn't bought romaine in ages though, mostly because I haven't needed romaine). I always match the look of the medication I get at the pharmacy to the description of the pill. My last refill, the tablets came from a different manufacturer and the pharmacy tech was very sure to tell me that they looked and tasted a smidge different (they did), but they were perfectly okay (they were).

    Looking forward to the next Maggie book!

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    1. Yes, so wise of you! So many medications have incredibly similar names!

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    2. Hi Liz!! My dad's attitude toward the poisonings was so cavalier, it drove me crazy even then. My mom was much more sensible: cautious but careful about not making me paranoid. (I was heading toward paranoid anyway!) You're so good to check your medications! I confess, I am not. I did have a warning from a pharmacist that a new migraine med I was trying would basically taste like poison (ha ha!!) and he was right. I was glad for the heads-up!

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  11. I grew up in Seattle in the 50's. The first crime, which was more of a tragedy was the murder/ suicide of one of my classmate's parents. I also vividly remember the red scare. Another of my classmate's father was arrested for his suspected communist views. He was an Italian violin maker, for heaven's sake. I guess 'they' figured he would fiddle in the revolution.

    Yes to everyone's comments about the Tylenol bottles. Back then I was much more cynical, and wondered if the perp wanted to buy stock when it was being sold on the downward spiral.

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    1. Oh, a stock market theory! I had never heard that… But pretty brilliant, in a terrible sort of way…

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    2. The red scare! Yes, that would be very memorable. (And the poor violin maker!! Sheesh.) Love your theory about Tylenol stock. Sounds like a good book plot, too!

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  12. The Tylenol poisonings were indeed a terrifying episode in our history.

    On the ABOUT page on BOLO Books, I talk briefly about a crime that probably inspired my interest in mysteries. When I was young - single digits - I remember being over a friend's house and playing jacks on the tile floor right by the front door. There was a babysitter watching my neighbors that evening. There was a knock on the front door, and while we probably should have known not to answer it, we did. On the doorstep was a teenager who was bleeding. He was asking to come in and use the phone. By that time, the babysitter had arrived and I don't remember if she let him in or just offered to call 911, but I remember saying to my friend, let's run to my house (just up the street maybe 4 houses). Before we could get off the porch, I can distinctly hear this young man saying "be careful, my Dad is still out there."

    Needless to say, we got to my house very quickly and shook to the bones. The sirens and police lights hit the street. I guess they took the kid to the hospital, but we children were never really told what happened and while my Mom remembers the incident, it clearly didn't stick with the adults like it did with us.

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    1. Oh my gosh, I just got chills. That is… Incredibly disturbing and unsettling, and I can see how you were marked by it.

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    2. And also, besides everything else, such a terrifying reality for a child, of how your world can change so quickly.

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    3. Wow, Kristopher! That story just made my heart ache--for you as small children and for the injured teen. How absolutely horrible. I just keep thinking about what happened to the teenager after he was discharged from the hospital and where he went next.

      The first time I remember crime visiting my hometown was when a woman from our neighborhood was murdered while jogging. Again, an intrusion into the illusion of safety. I didn't know her, but remember being very shaken for her husband, for our town...about everything, really.

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  13. Kathy - you know how excited I am about this book. Congratulations! I remember the Tylenol case, but since I grew up in North Carolina, the 1970 Jeffrey McDonald murder case -- the idea that a soldier and an MD could brutally murder his own family-- was the one that first made home seem scary to me.

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    1. Yes, fascinating, I agree! Because it was so impossible sounding. What was the final final outcome of that?

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    2. As of 2014 the Courts have denied MacDonald's appeals based on the unreliability of witnesses. MacDonald remains in prison. His next parole hearing will be in 2020.

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    3. Wendall! Thank you!! And you know how excited I am about YOUR next book. I'm a huge fan! (I love that we're nearly book birthday sisters!)

      I had to look up the Jeffrey McDonald case to refresh my memory. Absolutely horrible. And to know you're not even safe at home...that has to be the worst fear of all.

      Thanks for the update on the case, Caralee! Prison seems like a good place for him.

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    4. Think about how our perception of things has changed since the Jeffrey McDonald case. Back then, a married veteran and MD was, by default, a good man. Now the notion of a vet having PTSD or anger management issues, or a husband killing his wife and children in a jealous rage, or a professional man having a hidden abusive streak seems obviously plausible. We see similar stuff all too often.

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  14. Kathy, I remember the Tylenol murders, but I had forgotten that no one was ever caught. The crime that sticks with me is local--we are very small towns here and on April 1, 1968, I was still in middle school when a local family was killed. The father and mother were found shot to death in their bed; their 12-year-old daughter was found severely beaten in her bedroom and died soon after. Only the 17-year-old son was not at home. The case has never been solved.What has stuck with me is the question, was it someone local? Someone still living among us? I know that suspicion clung to the son. And the parents probably didn't know what was happening, asleep at the time of their deaths. But that young girl--she surely was aware of her attacker. I remember everyone praying that she would recover--so the person responsible could be caught.

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    1. Exactly! Did the sun escape, and will go into hiding? What could have triggered that? Or was it someone else, and if so, why? There is certainly a big story there… Someplace.

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    2. Such a tragic story, Flora, even more so that no one was brought to justice. My first suspicion in reading this was for the son, too. Which made me think...if he was guilty, what a crime that he never answered for his actions, and if he was innocent, he'd have to live the rest of his life under the cloud of suspicion. Ugh, and the daughter. The thought of her awareness during the attack makes me heartsick.

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  15. Congratulation on the new book Kathy. It sounds intriguing.

    Tylenol was first touted as safe at any dose. That was before we knew what a number it did on the liver, particularly when combined with alcohol. The dail dose was then linited to 4000 mg That has since been dropped to 3000mg/day But most people don't get poisoned by it.

    In addition to seals, those safety caps than can only be opened by a two year old, the manufacturer must now tell us of every possible effect, side effect, and contraindication. The result of this, in our household at least, is that we first defeat the safety caps and then ignore the doomsday ads. Sort of self-defeating isn't it.

    Lastly, before I climb down from the soapbox, Big Pharma does NOT have our best interests at heart. Period. Just look at the price of insulin, a generic that has been around for nearly a century. Follow the money. And don't you think they are scrambling now that pot is becoming legal state after state. No profit in that at all, therefore no funded research.

    You may now go back to your previously scheduled programming.

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    1. It’s so true! I cannot open those bottles at all!
      And I think you should stay right on that soapbox!

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    2. Ann, when my oldest daughter was an ER nurse she talked about how many young women tried to commit suicide by taking Tylenol, usually failing. The most horrible part was that they then had chronic and untreatable organ failure.

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    3. Hi, Ann! Thank you!!

      I so agree with you about Big Pharma. In fact, my first book, PROTOCOL, was all about it/them. Let's just say it doesn't cast the industry in a flattering light.

      And the price gouging! UGH. Terrible. We just found out that our daughter has an allergy to pine nuts(?!!). Even though I'd heard about the price of epi pens and "Pharma Boy," I was still shocked by the $600 price tag. Egads.

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    4. What an age of greed in which we live! Epi pens and insulin--when big money buys the politicians, how do we fight this?

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  16. I mostly buy spinach which has had recalls too. There aren’t many foods that haven’t been recalled at one time or another

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    1. That’s so true!!Remember when it was peanut butter?

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    2. Food recalls are terrifying, aren't they? And Hank! My best friend's cousin had a child who was permanently injured (kidneys? I think?) by tainted peanut butter. Good GOSH.

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  17. When I was growing up, the scary thing was kidnappings. One happened fairly close to me, in Kansas City. The small son of the owner of a large chain of car dealerships was kidnapped for ransom. All I remember is that his name was Bobby. He was found dead.

    And one of our family stories, told and retold, was about the kidnapping of the Oklahoma oil magnate, Charles Urschel. My mother's cousin, Ernest Kirkpatrick, was a business associate of Urschel, and Cousin Ernest was the one who paid the $200,000 to the kidnappers, who were then caught. Machine Gun Kelly and his wife Katherine were convicted and died in prison I think.

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    1. Wow, Ann! That is quite the family story!

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    2. Wow, Ann! Talk about crime hitting close to home!!

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  18. I really don't remember hearing about murders and crimes when I was a little kid. On the other hand, I was always so afraid of everything, especially that someone bad would get me. That idea must have come from somewhere.
    When I was grown and married with children a young college student disappeared from a nearby town. Her body was found in a field by a hunter several days later. This was in 1974 and has never been solved. But I don't remember that people were afraid they'd be next - it was more like a lesson to college girls not to walk alone late at night.
    Kathy, your book sounds very good and kind of scary at the same time.

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    1. Such an interesting distinction, isn't it? And yes, the "bad guy"thing--well, that's in every fairy tale, right?

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    2. Hi Judi! So interesting. It's sort of like the monster under the bed, but it's the monster down the street.

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  19. AND THE WINNERS Of Annie Ward's BEAUTIFUL BAD are: Charlotte and Cathy Akers-Jordan! YAAAYYY! email me your addresses to h ryan at whdh dot com!

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  20. I remember that case well, and I banned Tylenol from my house for a lot of reasons. I remember the Manson family murders haunted me in high school. Makes me shudder even now. Kathy, I'm putting your book on my TBR list!

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    1. Thank you, Edith! And, eesh, Manson. Every time he comes up for parole, it seems the country has to relive the horrors.

      I've had Diane Lake's memoir of her time in his cult on my TBR list forever. You've reminded me to pick it up!

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  21. Congratulations on the book! It can't have been an easy one to write.
    I was deeply affected by the murder of the eight nursing students in Chicago. I was in high school at the time and trying to figure out a career. Nursing was high on my list for all the romantic reasons, compassionate care-givers doing something so necessary in the service of others.
    The crime made no sense to me. It told me that it didn't matter if my life goals were altruistic. It didn't matter if I took precautions about who I lived with (safety in numbers), or who was responsible for my care and keeping (the hospital nursing program) violence existed and living a circumspect life was no insurance policy. In retrospect, these were not bad lesson to learn at the age of 17.

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    1. True. You grow up pretty fast when something like that happens...

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    2. Hi Lydia! I recently watched a show about those murders. So terrible. And what lessons to learn at 17. It is such a loss of innocence when we realize that doing good doesn't give us an insurance policy (as you so aptly said) against bad things.

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  22. Wow, Karen! That must have been a memorable experience. You're tough! I would have been quaking in my boots (or wedges).

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  23. Good resolution! And I hate how he preyed on women's sympathies. When I try to talk to my kids about being safe, I hear myself saying things like, "Help people. But don't!" Ack!

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  24. I wish I knew! They have so much power, not just over consumers, but politically, as well. It's disheartening.

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  25. I pay attention to recalls, but I don’t worry about it beyond that. There is so much going on that if you did, you’d worry yourself to death.

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  26. I spent most of 1982 at college in London. The Tylenol case didn't make much of an impression on me, but I was HYPER aware of the possibility of bombing. The Hyde Park and Regent's Park happened that July, and people were aware that more could follow. Of course, being England, it was all sensible precautions and stiff upper lip.

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    1. Oh, so terrifying..such a specter looming over everything..

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    2. I thought there was a similar crime that turned out to be a man trying to kill his wife and disguising it, and there was. In fact, according to Wikipedia, there were HUNDREDS of copycat crimes after the Chicago poisonings! So I apologize; wrapping everything in plastic clearly WASN'T an overreaction.

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    3. Julia, oh my gosh, the bombings. I can only imagine the feeling of waiting for the next one, all while keeping that stiff upper lip.

      And, yes, SO many copycats of the Tylenol poisonings. Just...why?

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  27. Oh, what an impression that Tylenol tampering made on me! And not just worrying about medicines being tampered with, but food at the grocery store, too. I was in my 20s, married, and trying to get pregnant. I worried about getting a tainted item before I could have all the dreams come true, like children. I was especially upset about the young Mary Kellerman whose life was ended by some mad person. I still am careful about medicines I buy, making sure they are properly sealed. That fear of tainted product has never left me, and it all goes back to the Tylenol deaths.

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  28. I don’t eat romaine lettuce at all any more; I just don’t want to take any chances. I use Tylenol, but not the capsules.

    Back in the late fifties or early sixties there were a couple of murders in my home town that still stick in my head: one was a Home invasion that I think happened on a holiday. I don’t remember if it was random or if the killer had a grudge against the homeowner. The intended victim’s wife stepped in front of her husband, thinking the shooter wouldn’t shoot her, but he did. I don’t remember if she was the only person killed. And the other one I remember involved a man who killed his children because he didn’t want his estranged wife to get custody of them. So sick.

    In the seventies or eighties, the husband of one of my mom’s coworkers raped and killed a child just hours after visiting his wife at the office.

    Ever since 9/11, I sometimes get a little anxious in large crowds, especially around any holiday. And I do watch for suspicious looking packages. A few years ago, just after I boarded a plane, I saw what I thought might be an abandoned briefcase behind the seat across the aisle from me. I decided to hope someone had simply forgotten it, but I didn’t really feel comfortable. So I decided, okay, she can think I’m crazy, but I’m going to tell the flight attendant. It was something that was supposed to be there, but she thanked me for caring enough to bring it up. She didn’t think I was crazy!

    DebRo

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    1. Of COURSE you should have told her! And Listen to this: our mail room guy came two flights up from the mailroom to bring a package to my office recently--and showed it to me and my producer. He held it up, and asked: does this look like one of those suspicious packages we're supposed to watch out for?

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    2. Oh MY! Did he take it away posthaste?

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    3. We're like--um, why did you bring it all the way up here?
      And he said--well, okay, I'll take it back downstairs. And we both yelled--NO! don't take it back downstairs. And we were laughing so hard.

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    4. Ha ha! Maybe he missed Part Two of the training!!

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    5. Exactly! People unclear on the concept :-)

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    6. Back during the anthrax-in-the-mail poisonings, I worked for a medical journal. Our office was in a large building on the Yale campus. A really good friend of the managing editor and myself worked for another journal down the hall (these journals often have rotating editorial boards that are in different universities for set periods of time). Anyway, soon after one individual died in CT from the anthrax powder in the mail, she came rushing into our office clutching a half-opened package. I didn't know what to do, she shouted. I started to open this package, then thought it looked really suspicious! What do you guys think? she says, thrusting this partially opened package at us. Thanks pal! I sez. Since I'm commenting here, obviously it was all just fine!

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    7. Oh my gosh, Melanie! What a scare!! I always wonder what I'd do in a situation like that. I'm not sure I'm the Hemingway-grace-under-pressure type. Glad it turned out okay!

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  29. Wow, Deb. That story of your mom's coworker gave me chills. File that under You Never Know What's in Someone's Heart. So terrible.

    I'm definitely more anxious and aware post-911. So glad you brought up that briefcase! (Again, you never know!) Once, my husband and I were flying home, and my husband noticed fuel leaking from one of the wings. (He's a private pilot.) He told the flight attendant, who at first thought he was seeing things. Once she confirmed, we were on the ground FAST.

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  30. So Hank, what happened with the package?

    DebRo

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    1. oh, of course, it was nothing....(it felt like a book. And it was!)

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  31. Oh, yes, I remember the Tylenol case - vividly. It happened on 9-30-82, the day that my daughter was born. My husband watched the news about it with my OB as I was being prepared for a c-section after being in labor all day. And the hospital was scrambling because Tynenol couldn't be used for patients. I can remember they offered me something else, but I can't remember what it was. Started with a 'D' I think. That case did change the look of medications and how they were packaged. I don't think I recalled that no one was ever charged with the crime, but how would they have figured it out? Not so many cameras, etc., back then. Look forward to reading Kathy's new book!

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    1. Kay, so interesting--what a personal connection!

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    2. Kay, wow! What a dramatic impact that had on your life. I can only imagine the upheaval as the hospital searched for a replacement for Tylenol. Hank, Demerol is my guess, too!

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  32. Just got home from interviewing Charles and Caroline Todd at a wonderful book store! And now reading all of these..

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  33. This is the crime I remember most vividly: https://ktla.com/2014/10/18/huntington-beach-memorial-to-honor-12-year-old-girl-abducted-murdered-in-1979/ Robin Samsoe was the age of my younger brother but was blonde like I was and did the things I did: rode the bus to the pier where she hung out with her friends. When she was kidnapped and murdered (by a serial killer!) it completely freaked my mother out, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it was a big factor in her agreeing to move to Idaho; prior to that she'd been adamantly opposed, but when Robin Samsoe was killed, Mom became worried for her latch-key kids in a way she couldn't shake.

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  34. Hey Beth! Thanks for the link. I wasn't familiar with the case. Just awful. I can picture myself reacting like your mom. I'd want to put as much distance between my family and that experience as possible. Where did you end up in Idaho?

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    1. We moved to Pocatello. We arrived in March, which was muddy and gray and in between seasons and about as different from my Southern Cal hometown as I could imagine. I immediately hated it. But the strangest thing happened--the people were so friendly. (Except for the neighbor who threatened to shoot our fat little dog when she stepped onto his yard...) Kids from the neighborhood were nice to my brother. Amazingly, teens at high school invited me to their birthday parties and events within the first couple of weeks I was there--so much more open and welcoming than I would have been at home to newcomers, I realized. Pretty soon, it didn't matter to me, too much, where we were. I was homesick in a general way for the ocean and the people I missed, but I was learning the lesson of "bloom where you're planted". My mom, on the other hand, just couldn't make the transition. Adults weren't as open and welcoming, the hospital where she worked was so far behind technically from where she had worked in CA and didn't love her attempts to update their standards, and my dad's business wasn't as successful as he'd hoped. So, we headed back to Southern Cal after a year. My mom was grateful to be back home and I think that modified her anxiety about the dangers there. Now that I am a wee bit older than she was then, I can totally relate to her response, and as a somewhat anxious person I hope that I was kind to her about her worries. Worried people keep the kids out of harm's way, or try to.

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    2. Pocatello! I know it well. (We have family in various and sundry parts of Idaho.) I can totally relate to your mom's response, too. It is a scary world out there!

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  35. The case that haunted me was when Scott Peterson killed his pregnant wife, Lacey! She was so young and pretty! So so sad! I do remember the Tylenol scare!!!

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    1. The Scott Peterson case! Yes!! So terrible and memorable.

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