CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — It was one of the most notorious massacres in Chicago history.
Monday marks the 20th anniversary of the Brownâs Chicken Massacre.READ MORE: Jensen Elementary Mother Dies From COVID-19 After Daughter Exposed At School
On January 8, 1993, seven people were shot and killed in a robbery at the Brown’s Chicken at 168 West Northwest Highway in Palatine. This incident would later be known as the Brown’s Chicken Massacre.
Police found the seven bodies in a walk-in refrigerator. The killers stole under $2,000 from the restaurant.
That discovery lead to a nearly a decade-long manhunt for the killers and one of the greatest mysteries in the Chicago suburbs.
The seven killed were all Brown’s Chicken employees, including the owners, Richard E. Ehlenfeldt and his wife, Lynn W. Ehlenfeldt; plus employees Guadalupe Maldonado, Michael C. Castro, Rico L. Solis, Thomas Mennes, and Marcus Nellsen.
Finally after nine years the investigation came to a close in 2002 when a former girlfriend implicated James Degorski and his associate Juan Luna. Luna had worked in the restaurant and his DNA matched DNA found on a partially eaten piece of chicken that had been recovered from the restaurant.
Prosecutors said Degorski and Luna wanted to do âsomething bigâ that night, when they entered the restaurant around closing time.
Luna confessed to the crime in May of 2002. He told detectives he and Degorski entered the restaurant around closing and ordered a four-piece chicken dinner before forcing employees to the back and executing them.
Luna was convicted seven counts of murder in 2007. Degorski was convicted of murder two years later and WBBM’s John Cody was in the courtroom.
“The same criminal court jury that found Degorski guilty of the Brown’s killings has now found him eligible for the death penalty,” Cody reported.
Later that year, in 2009, Brown’s Chicken filed for bankruptcy and news coverage at the time blamed the massacre for a substantial loss in business.
A number of things have changed in the years since the murders.READ MORE: Woman Struck And Killed When Car Jumps Curb, Hits Building In Gresham
The restaurant was torn down in 2001 and remained vacant until Chase Bank opened a location there a decade later.
The DNA techniques that helped convict Luna and Degorski have become even more sophisticated and common in the 10 years since police matched DNA left on a chicken bone at the scene to a saliva sample taken from Luna.
Some things havenât changed, however. Although closure has been made for the victims’ families, they still suffer with the pain and confusion from one of Chicagoland’s most notorious crimes.
Michael Castroâs parents, as they have through the decades, still visit him at the mausoleum where he was laid to rest. He was only 16 when he was killed. On every anniversary of the murders, his family goes to a special mass in his memory.
His mother, Epifania Castro said the services give her comfort, âbecause then I know that theyâre praying for him.
âMy faith saved us from all this; you know, to keep us sane.”
Twice a day, at precisely six oâclock, she prays at a shrine to her murdered boy, set up in the family living room. Sometimes she remembers the trial and the faces of her sonâs killers.
âFirst I said, âI want to do something to hurt them,ââ she admits.
But those thoughts are mostly gone now.
âJust say, leave it to Jesus, he will do the judgement.â
Asked if sheâs forgiven them, she says simply, âYeah.â
At the penalty phase of the trial, the daughter of the restaurantâs slain owners, Joy Ehlenfeldt, addressed Luna in her victim impact statement.MORE NEWS: Cook County Gives $200,000 Grant To Social Service Agency Lawrence Hall
âYou are responsible for your own familyâs suffering. Your family will now join ours in the circle of grief,â she said.