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Today in History: 20th Anniversary of Brown’s Chicken Massacre

Among the seven victims were a husband and wife from Arlington Heights who owned the restaurant, and five people from Palatine, including two teenagers, who also were employees.

On January 8, 1993, seven people were murdered in the Brown’s Chicken and Pasta restaurant that once stood at the corner of Northwest Highway and Smith Street. The restaurant was razed in 2001, and today, a Chase Bank occupies the corner.

The victims included, according to the Chicago Examiner, Brown’s Chicken owners, husband and wife, 49-year old Lynn Ehlenfeldt and Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, both of Arlington Heights, and Palatine residents and employees Guadalupe Maldonado, 46, Thomas Mennes, 32, and 31-year-old Marcus Nellsen.

Michael Castro,16, and 17-year-old Rico Solis, both of Palatine who attended Palatine High School, also were among those killed.

Juan Luna and James Degorski, former Fremd High School students, were arrested in 2002 for committing the murders. A former girlfriend of Degorski came forward and told authorities both men had confessed to being responsible for the crimes, the Chicago Tribue reported.

The murders occurred just after 9 p.m., the Daily Herald reported, 20 years ago today, on January 8, 1993. The bodies weren’t discovered until early on January 9. All of victims were shot to death and left in the restaurant’s freezer.

Luna was sentenced to life in prison without parole in May of 2007, the Chicago Tribune reported, and the Huffington Post reported that Degorski also received a life sentence in 2009. Both men were charged with seven counts of murder.

Palatine Police came under an intense amount of scrutinty, according to former Palatine Village Councilman Jack Wagner, who was on the village council at the time of the murders and during the subsequent investigation to find the killers. 

"If one good thing came out of it, it was that the Palatine Police were vindicated, they were being pressured to charge the wrong people by certain parts of the media, and they refused to take part in that," Wagner said. 

The motive for the murders was determined to be robbery. Luna and Degorski got way with less than $2,000. 

Shawn Jackson January 08, 2013 at 05:41 PM
This was truly a sad day in Palatine history. I for one feel that the punishment certainly did not fit the crime. We are now housing and feeding these two sorry excuses for humans for the rest of their lives. I am a rational man but justice would be better served in cases like this if the families that were affected could be the ones handing out the punishment.
Scott January 08, 2013 at 08:43 PM
Shawn - Luna and Degorski are young men; perhaps life in prison is the worst punishment. I can't imagine the concept of never seeing the outside of prison.

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