Brown's Chicken massacre

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Brown's Chicken massacre
Location Palatine, Illinois, United States
Coordinates 42°07′22″N 88°02′53″W / 42.12278°N 88.04806°W / 42.12278; -88.04806Coordinates: 42°07′22″N 88°02′53″W / 42.12278°N 88.04806°W / 42.12278; -88.04806
Date January 8, 1993
Attack type
Mass murder
Weapon(s) Snub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 60 .38-caliber revolver
Deaths 7
Perpetrators Juan Luna
James Degorski

The Brown's Chicken massacre was a mass murder that occurred at a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine, Illinois, a northwest suburb of Chicago, on January 8, 1993, when two assailants robbed the restaurant and then proceeded to murder seven employees. The case remained unsolved for nearly nine years, until one of the assailants was implicated by his girlfriend in 2002. Police used DNA samples from the murder scene to match one of the suspects, Juan Luna. Luna was put on trial in 2007, found guilty for seven counts of murder, and sentenced to life imprisonment. James Degorski, the other assailant, was found guilty in 2009 on all seven counts of murder, and also sentenced to life imprisonment.

Background[edit]

On January 8, 1993, seven people were murdered at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta at 168 W. Northwest Highway in Palatine.[1] The victims included the owners, Richard E. Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn W Ehlenfeldt, 49, of Arlington Heights, Illinois. Also killed were five employees: Guadalupe Maldonado, 46, of Palatine, via Mexico, the cook; Michael C. Castro, 16, and Rico L. Solis, 17, both Palatine High School students who were working there part-time; and Palatine residents Thomas Mennes, 32, and Marcus Nellsen, 31.[2] The assailants stole less than $2,000 from the restaurant.[3] Two of the Ehlenfeldts' daughters were scheduled to be at the restaurant that night, but happened not to be present at the time of the killing; a third daughter, Jennifer, was later elected to the Wisconsin State Senate.[4]

When Palatine police found the bodies, it was more than 5½ hours after the 9 p.m. closing.[3] Michael Castro's parents called the police a couple hours after closing time.[5] Later, Guadalupe Maldonado's wife called police, concerned that her husband had not returned home from work and that his car was still in the apparently closed Brown's Chicken parking lot.[5] When officers arrived at the building, they spotted the rear, employees' door open. Inside, they found the seven bodies, some face-down, some face-up, in a cooler and in a walk-in refrigerator.[1]

The building no longer exists. It was razed in April 2001,[1] after housing a dry cleaning establishment[6] and a deli, then stood vacant for several years. A Chase branch office is located at the former Brown's location.[7]

Recent history[edit]

In March 2002, more than nine years after the murders, Anne Lockett came forward and implicated her former boyfriend, James Degorski, and his associate, Juan Luna, in the crime.[8] Luna was a former employee of the restaurant.[8] In April 2002, the Palatine Police Department matched a DNA sample from Luna to a sample of saliva from a piece of partially eaten chicken found in the garbage during the crime scene investigation.[9] The chicken was kept in a freezer for most of the time since the crime; testimony at trial indicated it was not frozen for several days after discovery, and was allowed to thaw several times for examination and testing, in the hope of an eventual match via increasingly sophisticated testing methods not available in 1993.[9]

The Palatine Police Department took the two suspects into custody on May 16, 2002.[8] Luna confessed to the crime during an interrogation, though his lawyers would later claim that he was coerced to do so through corporal punishment and threats of deportation.[1] The pair, who met at Palatine's William Fremd High School, subsequently went to trial.[8]

On May 10, 2007, Juan Luna was found guilty of all seven counts of murder.[8] He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on May 17.[8] The state had sought the death penalty, which was available at the time, but the jury's vote of eleven-to-one in favor of the death penalty fell short of the required unanimity to impose it.[10]

On September 29, 2009 James Degorski was found guilty of all seven counts of murder, largely on the testimony of his former girlfriend Anne Lockett and another woman, who both stated that Degorski had confessed to them.[11] On October 20, 2009 he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. All but two of the jurors had voted for the death penalty.[12]

The incident had an adverse effect on the entire Brown's Chicken franchise. Sales at all restaurants dropped 35 percent within months of the incident, and the company eventually had to close 100 restaurants in the Chicago area.[13]

In March 2014, a jury awarded James Degorski $451,000 in compensation and punitive damages for having been beaten by a Sheriff's deputy in Cook County Jail in May 2002. He had suffered facial fractures that required surgery; the deputy was eventually dismissed.[14]

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Sadovi, Carlos (2007-03-28). "Brutal crime finally gets its day in court". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  2. ^ Sadovi, Carlos (2007-04-13). "Luna eager for his day in court". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  3. ^ a b Sander, Libby (2007-04-17). "Murder Trial to Begin in Illinois, 14 Years After 7 Died". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  4. ^ Jungen, Anne. "Shilling to share story of survival after parents killed" La Crosse Tribune January 31, 2011
  5. ^ a b Brunner, J. Terrence (1997). "The Brown’s Chicken Massacre". Better Government Association. Retrieved 2010-06-03. 
  6. ^ Byrne, John (August 5, 2009). "Brown's Chicken massacre comes back to haunt Palatine". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  7. ^ Pohl, Kimberley (2009-10-20). "Former Brown's Chicken site to become Chase Bank". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f Vitello, Barbara (2009-05-05). "Trial set for August in latest Brown's Chicken case". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  9. ^ a b Selvarn, Ashok (September 29, 2009). "Verdict brings closure to Palatine police officers". Daily Herald. Retrieved September 20, 2012. 
  10. ^ Kalsnes, Lynette (2007-07-18). "Jury Decides Against Death Penalty in Brown's Chicken Case". Wbez.com. Retrieved 2009-08-06. 
  11. ^ "Guilty Verdict in Brown's Chicken Trial". NBC Chicago. Sep 29, 2009. 
  12. ^ Greiner, Deborah (2009-10-20). "Life in Prison for Degorski". NBC. Retrieved 2009-10-30. 
  13. ^ Hussain, Rummana (2009-08-10). "After Brown's Chicken massacre: 'No one came'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-08-10. 
  14. ^ "Jury awards Brown's Chicken killer $451K in civil rights case". Chicage Tribune. March 8, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Possley, Maurice. The Brown's Chicken Massacre, Berkeley, 2003. Paperback, ISBN 0-425-19085-4
  • Shere, Dennis. "The Last Meal: Defending an Accused Mass Murderer," Titletown, 2010. Paperback, ISBN 978-0-9823008-8-6