The victims included the owners, Richard E. Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn W Ehlenfeldt, 49, of Arlington Heights, Illinois.
|Restaurant owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, 49.
The assailants stole less than $2,000 from the restaurant. 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.
When Palatine police found the bodies, it was more than 5½ hours after the 9 p.m. closing. Michael Castro's parents called the police a couple hours after closing time.
Officers spotted the rear employees' door open when they arrived at the building. Inside, they found the seven bodies, some face-down, some face-up, in a cooler and walk-in refrigerator.
|The victims of the January 8, 1993 massacre at the Palatine Brown's Chicken & Pasta were, top from left, franchisees Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt and employees Michael Castro, Guadalupe Maldonado, and bottom from left, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen, and Rico Solis.
|Emergency crews remove a body from a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine on January 9, 1993, a day after seven workers were shot to death during a robbery.
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. Luna was a former employee of the restaurant.
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. 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.
The Palatine Police Department took the two suspects into custody on May 16, 2002.
On May 10, 2007, Juan Luna was found guilty of all seven counts of murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole on May 17. The state had sought the death penalty, which was available then, but the jury's vote of eleven-to-one in favor of the death penalty fell short of the required unanimity to impose it.
On September 29, 2009, James Degorski was found guilty of all seven counts of murder, mainly on the testimony of his former girlfriend Anne Lockett and another woman, who both stated that Degorski had confessed to them. On October 20, 2009, he was sentenced to life without parole. All but two of the jurors had voted for the death penalty.
The incident hurt 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.
Jury Awards Brown's Chicken Killer $451K in Civil Rights Case.
In March of 2014, a jury awarded James Degorski $451,000 in compensation and punitive damages for being beaten by a Sheriff's deputy in Cook County Jail in May 2002. He suffered facial fractures requiring surgery; the deputy was eventually dismissed.
Chicago Tribune Article on March 8, 2014 - Jury awards Brown's Chicken Killer $451K in civil rights case.
A judge ordered a reduction of $120,000, and the Illinois Department of Corrections demanded that it get the money to pay for the upkeep of Degorski. However, no claims against the award were reportedly made by any of the families of the seven murder victims.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.