KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A person purporting to be Tylenol extortion suspect James W. Lewis asserts in a seven-page, hand-printed letter to the Kansas City Star that he was innocent of a 1978 murder police claim he committed.
The letter was received by the Star Saturday, one day after the Chicago Tribune received a similar letter signed by Robert Richardson, an alias Lewis used while in Chicago. Both letters were postmarked Nov. 23 in New York.
Lewis, 36, was charged in Chicago with attempted extortion in connection with a letter sent to the makers of Tylenol demanding $1 million 'to stop the killing.' Authorities also want him for questioning in seven Chicago area deaths from cyanide-laced Extra-Strength Tylenol capsules.
The Star letter did not mention the Tylenol murders, but did include a photocopy of a recent news magazine's article on the Tylenol extortion letter. It also included a photocopy of a Missouri driver's license purporting to be Lewis'.
The Star letter, written in the form of an article and bearing the title 'A Moral Dilemma,' attacks the investigation by Kansas City police into the death of Raymond M. West. The elderly man was found in his attic Aug. 14, 1978, dismembered and in a plastic bag.
Lewis, a former Kansas City tax accountant, was indicted on capital murder chares in the death of his client. The charge was later dismissed after a judge ruled that police had seized evidence improperly.
'I have been wanting this case reopened for years,' the writer said. 'I know that I did not have anything to do with Mr. West's death. I hope this time the investigators will take the time to conduct more than a superficial inquiry.'
The letter writer accused the police of 'concealing' evidence and that he was a victim of police incompetence.
'The captain (who investigated) was a bureaucrat with a body on his hands and a blank space on a form for the name of a suspected killer,' he contended.
'Kansas City was my home for 13 years. My wife and I had a lot of wonderful experiences in Kansas City. It is a good city and it deserves and should demand honest, effective law enforcement.'
Police says they have not reopened the investigation, but that they did give the FBI a fingerprint or handprint -- reportedly of poor quality - lifted from a pulley used to hoist West's body into the attic. The FBI has not disclosed whether the print has been identified.
The letter to the Star was turned over to Special Agent James C. Carter of the Kansas City FBI office. He said it would be examined for fingerprints.