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Poison Pill

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It was a Wednesday, June 11th, 1986. Fifteen year old Hayley Snow was up bright and early to get a jump on the day. It was nearing the end of the school year, and summer was so close she could taste it. It wouldn’t be long before she was sleeping in and staying up late with friends. 

 

Hayley popped by her parent’s room on the way to the shower, to say good morning to her mom. At 40-years old, Susan Snow had worked her way up the ranks and was an assistant vice president at the Puget Sound National Bank, managing their branch in Auburn. And, she was a married mother of two, with one girl off in college and the other soon to be on her way.

 

That morning, Susan had a bit of a headache. But, it was nothing this busy working mother wasn’t used to. She popped some Extra-Strength Excedrin.

 

As was their routine, Hayley got ready for school while Susan got ready for work, before meeting back up for breakfast. A half-hour later, when Hayley was just about ready to head down, she noticed the water was still running in her mom’s bathroom.

 

Odd, she thought. Mom didn’t usually take that long. So, she popped her head in one more time to see what Susan was up to.

 

Hayley was horrified to find her mom lying on the floor, barely breathing. Susan’s pulse was so faint that even the paramedics had a hard time finding it. They called for a helicopter to rush her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. But, Susan died just hours later. 

 

At first, it was a mystery how this seemingly healthy woman suddenly collapsed and died for no apparent reason. But it became clear during the autopsy when the coroner noticed the smell of bitter almonds, a distinct odor known to be caused by cyanide poisoning. Days later, toxicology tests would trace the poison to the bottle of Excedrin found in Susan’s bathroom. 

 

It was shocking, but not unheard of. Just a few years earlier seven people had died after taking cyanide-tainted Tylenol that had been planted at stores in the Chicago area. 

 

Could they have a copycat on their hands?

 

It would take years for investigators to finally answer that question, and the answer would come from the most unlikely of places, when another Auburn woman called police claiming her husband had taken the same poisoned pills.

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