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  #1  
Old 04-13-2007, 04:11 PM
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Alert Brown's Chicken & Pasta Trial

CHICAGO - Gruesome details in the slayings of seven people at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant 14 years ago emerged Friday, as opening statements got under way in the trial of an appliance installer accused of helping to carry out the crime.

Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine described each victim's wounds, saying some were shot in the head or chest, some were stabbed and at least one person's throat was slashed.

He also told jurors evidence will prove that Juan Luna, who was 18 at the time, went to the restaurant at closing time on Jan. 8, 1993 with a friend, James Degorski, intending to carry out a robbery, which led to the mass slaying.

"They wanted to do something big," Devine said, and chose the restaurant where Luna had once worked because he knew the layout and that the owners did not have a gun. He said Luna also knew that at 9 p.m. on a Friday evening, there would be money there and few people around. The bodies of restaurant owners Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, and employees Michael Castro, 16, Guadalupe Maldonado, 46, Thomas Mennes, 32, Marcus Nellsen, 31, and Rico Solis, 17, were found in a walk-in freezer and cooler.

Devine said one of the first officers on the scene saw a hand and a foot sticking out of the freezer.

"He opened up the freezer door and what he saw was a mass of humanity," Devine said.

Defense attorney Clarence Burch asked jurors to keep an open mind.

"The facts are horrific ... but you promised us when we selected you that you would keep an open mind. ... It's not an open-and-shut case."

The first witness Friday was Manny Castro, Michael Castro's father. Castro said that when his son did not come home by 11 p.m. that night, his wife woke him up and he went to the restaurant. When he could not open a door, he went home and called police, who Castro said at first suggested his son had gone to a party after work.

Around 1 a.m., he said, he followed a police officer back to the restaurant, and the officer was able to open an employee door. The officer then turned around and said, "Don't come in here, something's up," Castro testified.

A couple of minutes later, police cars began showing up, "but they are not taking out anybody," Castro said.

The case stumped police for years. It wasn't until nine years later, when Degorski's former girlfriend and another woman came forward with information about the murders, that the men became suspects.

Luna, now 33 and father to a 9-year-old boy, and Degorski were arrested five years ago.

Both pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, and are being tried separately. Degorski's trial date has not been set.

A DNA sample linked Luna to a chicken dinner authorities say was the last meal ordered the night of the murders. The food sat untested in a crime lab freezer for several years.

Defense attorney Burch is expected to try to cast doubt on the reliability of the forensic evidence. Burch also has said a man who was later excluded as a suspect had confessed.

http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2007/0.../d8oft2804.txt
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Old 04-17-2007, 11:24 AM
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Exclamation Brown's Chicken murder trial testimony centers around DNA

Brown's Chicken murder trial testimony centers around DNA

April 17, 2007 (CHICAGO) - Testimony continues today in the trial of a man accused of killing seven people at a suburban Brown's Chicken and Pasta in 1993.


Yesterday's testimony centered around D-N-A evidence taken from a partially eaten piece of chicken found in the Palatine restaurant's garbage.

Richard Cunningham was a D-N-A analyst for Lifecode Company in Connecticut in the mid-1990s. He says he found a trace of D-N-A on a bone but not enough to link it to anyone.

Juan Luna and James Degorski were charged with the crime in 2002 after technology had advanced enough to allegedly link Luna's D-N-A to another bone from the dinner.

Under cross-examination, Cunningham said extract taken in 1994 from the sample is missing.
Luna is accused of going to the restaurant at closing time with a high school friend. The two allegedly shot and stabbed their victims, leaving the bodies in two walk-in freezers.

http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?sec...cal&id=5217135
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Old 04-18-2007, 05:40 AM
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Exclamation 'He smiled' about murder

'He smiled' about murder

BROWN'S CHICKEN TRIAL | Key witness: Luna almost bragged about slitting owner's throat

Juan Luna smiled as he described slitting Lynn Ehlenfeldt's throat, a key witness in the Brown's Chicken murder trial said Tuesday.

Witness Eileen Bakalla identifies Juan Luna in the courtroom during the Palatine Brown's Chicken murders trial at the Cook County Courthouse Tuesday

But the witness -- Eileen Bakalla -- admitted lying to police and keeping her knowledge of the crime secret for years. Defense lawyers portrayed her as living in a marijuana haze while sleeping with James Degorski, Luna's alleged accomplice.

Luna, 33, is charged with killing seven people at the Palatine restaurant in 1993. Degorski, also charged, will stand trial at a later date. On Tuesday, Bakalla testified the two men told her about the crime immediately afterward -- and gave her $50 from the proceeds. At Degorski's house two weeks later, Luna recounted killing franchise owner Ehlenfeldt, she said.

Eileen Bakalla


"It was almost like he was bragging about what he had done. He went into detail about how he had slit her throat, how the blood ran out. And then he smiled about it," Bakalla said.

Bakalla, now 34, went to Palatine's Fremd High School with Luna and Degorski and worked at a pizza place with them. A white cross around her neck, Bakalla testified she and Degorski got together often to smoke marijuana and drink. But she "never liked" Luna, she said. "He just gave me the heebie-jeebies," Bakalla said.

The Brown's Chicken murders stumped police until 2002, when Degorski's former girlfriend Anne Lockett came forward and said the men told her they committed the crime. Bakalla admitted the same thing.

Bakalla said on the night of Jan. 8, 1993, Degorski asked her to meet him and Luna at a Jewel-Osco in Carpentersville. She noticed green "rubber or latex gloves" sitting in Luna's car, she said. The men got in her car with a "canvas money bag," and they drove to her house.

Jade Solis, sister of murder victim Rico Solis

When she saw the bag, "I asked where it was from, and they had told me they had robbed the Brown's Chicken," Bakalla said.

At Bakalla's, they smoked marijuana, and Luna and Degorski divvied up the money. Later, she and Degorski drove by the Brown's Chicken, where she saw "ambulances and police cars," Bakalla said.

The next day, she was with Degorski when he "extensively cleaned Luna's car" at a car wash, she said.

Bakalla lied to police in 1995 when she backed up Luna's alibi for the night of the murders, she admitted. Luna, as a former Brown's employee, was questioned as a matter of routine. "Both of them told me that I needed to keep my mouth shut," she said.

Defense lawyer Clarence Burch portrayed Bakalla as being in love with Degorski, though she denied they were having a physical relationship at that time. Burch hammered at her drug use, repeating the word "reefer" like a mantra.

Admits sleeping with suspect

After getting high, "you start to see and hear things that aren't there, right?" Burch said.


"No, it relaxes me," Bakalla said.

Bakalla said she lied to police because she was "scared," but Burch got her to admit she slept with Degorski the night he allegedly helped kill seven people at Brown's Chicken.

"As friends," Bakalla said. "We had our clothes on."

"And this would be during the time that you were getting high with him every night, sleeping with him and nothing happened?" Burch asked.
Rather than being scared of Degorski, Bakalla was trying to protect him, Burch said, "because he was your man."

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/3...cken18.article
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Old 04-26-2007, 10:14 AM
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Exclamation Jurors Watch Restaurant Slaying Video

Jurors Watch Restaurant Slaying Video

CHICAGO -- Jurors watched a videotape in which a man accused of killing seven people at a restaurant in a Chicago suburb described slitting the throat of the restaurant's co-owner.

In the 43-minute statement taped in May 2002, Juan Luna described what he said were his and his friend James Degorski's roles in the 1993 slayings. The bodies of the victims _ who had been shot and stabbed _ were found in two walk-in freezers at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine.

Defense attorneys have said the videotaped statement was coerced. Luna has pleaded not guilty, as has Degorski, who will be tried separately.
In the video, Luna said he and Degorski planned to rob the restaurant because it was an easy target with little security. Luna, 18 at the time of the killings, was a former employee.

Luna said he and Degorski drove to the restaurant, ordered a chicken dinner and tried not to leave fingerprints by wearing latex gloves. He said Degorski fired a warning shot before the killings, and that Degorski told him to watch restaurant co-owner Lynn Ehlenfeldt.

"With everybody going all wild and crazy, I guess I just got caught up in it and cut her throat," Luna said on the tape, making a slashing motion with a pen. "She was laying on the floor. She started gargling and ran out of breath."

Luna said Degorski ordered the other victims into the freezers and Degorski told him to fire.

"I took one shot and I wasn't really aiming for anybody to get shot or anything like that, just to scare them, because I didn't want to hurt anybody anymore," Luna said. "They were yelling, 'Don't shoot us, please don't shoot us.'"

Luna said he went to cut the power and Degorski went back to the freezers. Luna said he then heard rapid-fire shots.

Investigators say Luna's DNA matches samples found on chicken bones at the scene. He was arrested in 2002.

On Tuesday, Degorski's former girlfriend Anne Lockett, 31, testified that Degorski and Luna took turns describing the grisly details of the slayings to her shortly after the killings.

She said Luna was "physically into it _ animated" as he described killing the seven Brown's employees.

In March 2002, Lockett went to police. She said Tuesday that fear kept her from coming forward sooner.

"I figured they had killed seven. Why not eight?" she said.

She acknowledged under cross-examination that years of substance abuse have left her with short-term memory problems. But she said her recollection of what the men told her has remained clear.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...042600379.html
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Old 04-30-2007, 08:55 AM
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Exclamation Luna was 'peaceful,' witnesses say

Luna was 'peaceful,' witnesses say

Juan Luna is not the cold-blooded killer prosecutors have portrayed him to be, Luna's defense attorneys attempted to show as they began presenting their case to jurors Thursday in the Brown's Chicken and Pasta massacre trial.

The defense first called Luna's brother, Jorge, who said that throughout high school and into his adult life, his older brother was a peaceful man.

"His reputation was always following the law and never breaking any rules," said Jorge Luna, 31, a personal banker and financial adviser in Arlington Heights.

Kristin Happel, who was Luna's boss at the restaurant where he worked while in high school, said she remembered him as being well-liked by the other employees and not a troublemaker.

"Did he have a reputation for being a peaceful person or a violent person?" asked Stephen Richards, one of Luna's lawyers.

"A peaceful ... law abiding person," Happel said.

The testimony came in Cook County Circuit Court one day after jurors watched a 43-minute videotaped confession in which Luna calmly told investigators in 2002 how he and James Degorski, 34, killed seven Brown's workers in Palatine.

Luna's lawyers have said the statement was coerced.

Luna and Degorski are charged with killing restaurant owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn, 49; Tom Mennes, 32; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Michael Castro, 16; Guadalupe Maldonado, 46; and Rico Solis, 17. Degorski's trial date has not been set. Both men face the death penalty if convicted.

The defense on Thursday also began hitting at the heart of their case: that investigators mishandled evidence.

Palatine Police Officer William Heche, who was one of the first crime-scene technicians at the restaurant, testified that on Jan. 10, 1993, two days after the killings, he found a four-piece chicken dinner in a garbage bin. Heche said one of his responsibilities was to videotape the crime scene, but he admitted that he never photographed what was in the bin.

"There were no pictures taken of what was found in the garbage or no video?" said Clarence Burch, another of Luna's lawyers.

"I don't think that any exists," Heche said.

Heche also said that when he looked into the garbage bag he only could see a four-piece chicken meal and one piece was partially eaten. He said he turned the bag over to Jane Homeyer, a forensics expert at the Northern Illinois Crime Lab.

Testimony during the prosecution's case indicated that there were six pieces of chicken in the bag and that DNA recovered from two chicken bones later was linked to Luna.

Heche said he noticed a napkin in the garbage, but Burch noted that Heche failed to list it on a detailed 6-page report.

"This is the biggest case ever in Palatine, so it was important to be careful with details," Burch said.

"Yes," Heche answered.

Homeyer had testified on April 16 that she was able to find a palm print on the napkin, which was later tied to Luna.

On Thursday, Jorge Luna said that when his brother was arrested on May 16, 2002, his family was kept in the dark about where he was until the next day, when Luna gave the videotaped confession.

All they knew was that his brother had been arrested at a Carpentersville gas station when he stopped for gas with his son, Brian, then 5, Jorge Luna said. They had called several police departments, and about 10:30 p.m. on the evening of May 16 a police officer showed up at his parents' Cary home.

"He just said your brother's safe," Jorge Luna said. "The next time I saw [Juan] was on TV, and he had been arrested."

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...ck=1&cset=true
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Old 04-30-2007, 10:15 AM
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In the video, Luna said he and Degorski planned to rob the restaurant because it was an easy target with little security. Luna, 18 at the time of the killings, was a former employee.

Luna said he and Degorski drove to the restaurant, ordered a chicken dinner and tried not to leave fingerprints by wearing latex gloves. He said Degorski fired a warning shot before the killings, and that Degorski told him to watch restaurant co-owner Lynn Ehlenfeldt.

"With everybody going all wild and crazy, I guess I just got caught up in it and cut her throat," Luna said on the tape, making a slashing motion with a pen. "She was laying on the floor. She started gargling and ran out of breath."

I truly don't understand our Justice system. If they have this on tape, how is it he pleads not guilty and this goes to trial??

Or is it that they pled not guilty to First-Degree charges and that's why it's going to trial (since it may not have exactly been premeditated before going into the building)?
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Old 04-30-2007, 08:04 PM
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...and then dare to call three hots and a cot justice for such a horrific crime??
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Old 04-30-2007, 08:11 PM
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...and then dare to call three hots and a cot justice for such a horrific crime??


hee hee hee - I had to look that phrase up!
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Old 05-01-2007, 09:03 AM
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Exclamation Big trial, big mistakes

Big trial, big mistakes

Law enforcement officials long have been accused of mishandling the Brown’s Chicken investigation — and the ongoing murder trial has done little to repair that image.


From losing evidence to forgetting to take important hand prints, police errors have given the defense ample ammunition. And as attorneys for Juan Luna, one of two men charged with the 1993 slayings, continue to make their case this week, those gaffes will remain in the spotlight.

“These are examples of incompetence,” said Leonard Cavise, a professor at DePaul University College of Law. “It’s not the kind of thing you expect from a 21st-century police department.”

Prosecutors allege Luna, a former Brown’s employee, and his high school buddy Jim Degorski killed seven people inside the Palatine chicken restaurant on Jan. 8, 1993. The men, who are being tried separately, have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, both could face the death penalty.

Prosecutors and Palatine police officials cannot comment on the handling of the case because of a court-imposed gag order.

Their own evidence, however, shows Luna was first questioned by police on Feb. 17, 1993. At the time, authorities were checking the alibis of many Brown’s past and present workers and taking their fingerprints so they could be ruled out as suspects. By that point, an ex-employee had already been arrested — and cleared — in connection with the murders.

Luna showed up at the police station wearing a white shirt and black tie, an unusually formal outfit for the interview, police now say. Luna allegedly told former Arlington Heights police Officer Ronald Sum, a member of a quickly assembled police task force, that he spent the entire night of Jan. 8 with an ex-girlfriend whose last name he could not remember.
Sum took Luna’s fingerprints after the interview, but did not take his left palm print. The police report indicates the interview and prints were done on different days, though Sum testified that they most certainly would have occurred during the same meeting.


Authorities now cannot find the original copy of that interview, though they located the fingerprints and a Polaroid picture he took of Luna.

Under intense questioning from the defense, Sum said he wasn’t instructed to bring dubious alibis to investigators’ attention. He was merely expected to file the paperwork, he said.

Police would not question Luna about his bizarre explanation until 1995 — even though a forensic scientist notified Palatine of the need for the missing palm print two years earlier.

“I know I pointed it out,” testified Jane Homeyer, who worked for the Northern Illinois Police Crime Lab at the time of the murders. “I’m sure I would have placed a personal phone call.”

Police would not physically link Luna to the crime scene until 2002, but in the late 1990s, two fingerprint experts from the Chicago Police Department said another suspect matched the partial print found on a discarded napkin.

The two subsequently had their ruling overturned and lost their certification as fingerprint experts, according to court testimony.

The forensics team also has endured accusations of mishandling the DNA found on half-eaten chicken bones at the scene. In 1994, police sent the bones and a coffee stirrer to a laboratory in the hopes of obtaining a profile of the person they believe ate the last meal inside the restaurant.

The saliva sample, however, was too small at the time for testing. The scientist threw out the lone tested bone, a stirrer and, most importantly, the DNA extract.

“These are rookie mistakes,” Cavise said. “They’re inexcusable.”

In 1995, police took the remaining bones to the Field Museum, where law-enforcement officials acknowledge the evidence was handled by scientists who didn’t wear gloves.

Three years later, authorities sent the food remnants to the Illinois State Police Crime Laboratory. Once there, a forensic scientist swabbed five bones and found evidence of two people’s DNA present. Prosecutors say Luna matches one of the profiles.

The swabs were mailed back to authorities, according to testimony, but the key physical evidence in the case was lost in transit.

“The DNA evidence wasn’t handled properly,” Cavise said. “It’s important evidence in the biggest case in Cook County history and you trust a third-party to deliver it?”

Prosecutors, however, can downplay the majority of police errors, experts say, because they have a videotaped statement in which Luna implicates himself. Without that damning tape, experts say, state’s attorneys could be looking at an O.J. Simpson-style trial in which the jurors question the police work and return a not guilty verdict.

Jurors tend to give less weight to physical evidence when an admission is involved, Cavise said.

“They’re lucky they have a confession or they could lose this case,” Cavise said.

Luna’s statement, which the defense maintains was forced and thus wrongly obtained, also means prosecutors won’t have to spend a lot of time trying to apologize or minimize the errors, experts say. Law professors, however, say they should acknowledge the errors in some form before deliberations begin.

“I don’t think the mistakes will have a big impact on the jury,” said Richard Kling, a professor at Chicago-Kent School of Law. “The prosecutors will have to address some of the issues. If they’re smart, they will.”

The law-enforcement missteps, however, aren’t limited to the early years of the 14-year-old investigation. During questioning last week, Cook County Judge Vincent Michael Gaughan chastised a police officer who appeared to embellish his account of a 2002 conversation with Luna.
Palatine Police Sgt. Bill King told the jury that he interviewed Luna in 2002 after Degorski’s ex-girlfriend implicated him in the murders. During that conversation, King testified, Luna said he had never returned to the restaurant after quitting in June 1992.

Though it’s a seemingly innocuous comment, it’s a key detail for prosecutors who want jurors to believe that Luna’s DNA had to be left at the scene on the night of the slayings and not during a friendly visit to see former co-workers days earlier.

However, there’s no documentation of that statement ever being made, according to court records. After King made the claim, Gaughan hurriedly excused the jury and criticized the sergeant on the record.

The judge gave King a warning and threatened to sanction him if he did something like that again.

“The fact that you remember it … years after the fact,” Gaughan said, “is too suspicious.”

When the jurors returned to the courtroom, Gaughan told them to disregard the statement because there’s no documentation of it ever being made.

Though most of Gaughan’s harsh words for King came outside the jury’s earshot, Cavise says some members will be able to figure out why they’ve been told to ignore the comment.
“They can put two and two together,” he said. “There will be at least one person (on the jury) who understands what happened there.”

http://www.dailyherald.com/news/cook...645&cc=c&tc=&t=

Mishandling of a key piece of evidence in the Brown's Chicken murder case was an example of shoddy investigative work during the course of a nine-year investigation, lawyers for a man on trial for the 1993 murders said Monday.

David Willard, a Field Museum bird expert, testified that in 1995 and in 1999 Palatine police investigators brought him pieces of chicken found at the restaurant after the seven murders.

Willard, testifying Monday in the trial of Juan Luna, 33, in Cook County Circuit Court, said in both cases he analyzed the chicken in a "semi-private" area in the museum open to school groups and others who are accompanied by escorts. In 1995, he said, he and another Field Museum scientist took pieces of meat off the bones as part of their analysis.

"Did you wear any protective gloves ... any protective clothing that day?" asked Clarence Burch, one of Luna's lawyers. "The table you used to take the meat from the bones was sterilized wasn't it?"

"No," Willard said.

Scientists have testified during the trial that a partially eaten chicken meal found in a garbage can after the Jan. 8, 1993, murders contained Luna's DNA. Throughout the trial, defense lawyers have questioned the police work and on Monday they attempted to show that Willard may have compromised the evidence.

In 1998 DNA was found on two chicken bones, and it was eventually linked to Luna after his arrest in 2002.

Luna and co-defendant James Degorski, 34, are charged with killing restaurant owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife, Lynn, 49; and workers Tom Mennes, 32; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Michael Castro, 16; Guadalupe Maldonado, 46; and Rico Solis, 17. Degorski's trial date has not been set.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/n...ationworld-hed
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Old 05-02-2007, 09:49 AM
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Exclamation Jurors hear other man's confession to murders

Jurors hear other man's confession to murders

For the second time in the Brown's Chicken murder trial, jurors heard a confession to the 1993 crime.




Defense lawyers for Juan Luna -- accused of murdering seven people at the Palatine restaurant -- are trying to cast doubt on a videotaped confession their client gave in 2002. In that statement, played for jurors last week, Luna detailed how a robbery he allegedly committed with James Degorski escalated into murder. Degorski, also charged, will stand trial later.

But on Tuesday, defense lawyers brought out evidence that Jonathan Simonek confessed on Aug. 5, 1999.


A written statement taken by Palatine police Sgt. Richard Cruz purports to describe how Simonek and another man -- Todd Wakefield -- committed the massacre.

"'Todd [Wakefield] rounded them up and told the people to get into the freezer,' " defense lawyer Clarence Burch said, reading from the confession.

Cruz said he doubted the truthfulness of Simonek's statement. And prosecutor Scott Cassidy questioned whether Simonek was "regurgitating what someone else said."

Neither Simonek nor Wakefield was ever charged.

The five-page confession allegedly recounts how Wakefield picked Simonek up and drove to Brown's Chicken. Wakefield allegedly ordered food, and they sat and ate it by the west side window. Simonek's statement offers little detail on how the meal turned into robbery. "The next thing I remember, we were behind the counter," Simonek said.

After Wakefield rounded employees up and put them in the freezer, Simonek shut the freezer door and heard gunshots, according to the statement. Wakefield then allegedly emerged, gave Simonek the gun and told him to shoot people.

Simonek admitted shooting at two people in a separate cooler, where police found victims Richard Ehlenfeldt and Thomas Mennes dead from gunshot wounds. The shots hit one victim and might have struck another, but Simonek couldn't tell because of plastic strips hanging over the door.

Simonek also said he shot at a fryer hood, where investigators found a bullet mark.
Luna's lawyers allege Simonek's statement has details only the real killer would know -- including bullet marks in the fryer hood and plastic strips, and the last meal being eaten on the west side of the restaurant.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/metro/3...cken02.article
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Old 05-03-2007, 11:03 AM
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Exclamation 'Other confession' had 5 versions

'Other confession' had 5 versions

A Mt. Prospect man who confessed to the 1993 Brown's Chicken murders said he had a "vision" about the killings and that he may have been drugged and taken to the fast-food restaurant in Palatine the night of the killings, a prosecutor who worked on the case testified Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court.

Assistant State's Atty. John Dillon, testifying for the prosecution in the state's rebuttal in Juan Luna's murder trial, also said that the man gave several different accounts of the crime when he was questioned in 1998.

"He was going back and forth," Dillon said. "He gave five different statements, none of which was identical. ... At the conclusion of those five statements, I sent him home."

In one version, the man said an accomplice showed up at his home at 10 p.m. on Jan. 8, 1993, after the crimes were committed, dressed in bloody clothes, Dillon testified. In another version, the man claimed that he and an accomplice used a semi-automatic handgun to commit the crime. And in another version, he said he told an accomplice to shoot him rather than force him to shoot the victims.

The testimony came on the 12th day of trial for Juan Luna, 33, who along with James Degorski, 34, was charged in 2002 with the murders. Degorski is awaiting trial.

Dillon said he did not believe that the Mt. Prospect man was responsible for the murders, even though Palatine police arrested him a year later and he confessed on videotape.

Dillon said he told the head of a task force leading the investigation to notify him if the man was questioned again, but he was never called. He later learned that Palatine police took the man's confession and recorded it on Aug. 6, 1999. The man and an accomplice were never charged.

In the video statement, which was played for jurors Wednesday, the man said he and an accomplice went to the restaurant because the other man was hungry.

As the tape played, Luna's lawyer, Clarence Burch, asked Palatine Police Sgt. Steve Bratcher, who took the videotaped confession, whether he or other officers fed key details to the man, such as where the victims were found or if a steel fryer hood had been shot at in the kitchen.

"Not in my presence," Bratcher said.

In the video, the man said he and the accomplice sat in the west side of the restaurant, where they ate the chicken meal. Investigators later found a partially eaten chicken meal on the west side of the restaurant, from which they were eventually able to find DNA that matched Luna's. The also found a partial palm print belonging to Luna.

Investigators have testified that neither DNA nor fingerprints belonging to the man who gave the 1999 statement or the accomplice he implicated were found in the restaurant.

According to the videotaped statement played Wednesday, the man said his accomplice told five of the employees to "bunch up" and get into a freezer. The accomplice then told the man to lock the two other employees in a cooler. He said the accomplice then began shooting into the freezer with the five people and ordered him to shoot the other two, he said on the videotape.

"I said no, you do it. I argued a few more minutes. He wouldn't let me go," the man said on the videotape.

He said he shot through plastic strips that were used to prevent cold air from escaping from the freezer and believed he hit two people. The accomplice had a knife, he said, and the accomplice stabbed two or three people after shooting them.

"I just saw his arm going up and down," the man said in the videotape.

Two victims, Lynn Ehlenfeldt, 49, and Michael Castro, 16, were found with stab wounds, but their wounds are not consistent with the man's account, medical experts said. Ehlenfeldt's throat was slashed and Castro had a single stab wound in his abdomen, experts said.

Defense lawyers rested their case on Wednesday.During the state's rebuttal, testimony from a crime lab expert raised the question of whether evidence may have been withheld. State police officials have said that a computer that contained Luna's DNA information was eventually discarded as scrap, but Jamie Gibson from the state crime lab said she downloaded the data onto a computer disk beforehand.

Experts eventually found the computer and recovered the information from its hard drive, but state police officials had said such a disk didn't exist.

Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan ordered lawyers to look into the matter.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...lnorthwest-hed
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:39 AM
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Exclamation Next step in Brown's case: Final arguments

Next step in Brown's case: Final arguments

After nearly a month of emotional, often gruesome testimony contrasted with lengthy scientific discussions, jurors in the Brown's Chicken trial are set to hear closing arguments Wednesday in one of the state's most notorious mass killings.

Images from the crime scene have aired almost daily on video screens as details of the Jan. 8, 1993, killings of seven people at the Palatine fast-food restaurant have played out in the trial of Juan Luna, which is presided over by Circuit Judge Vincent Gaughan in courtroom 500 of the Cook County Criminal Court building in Chicago.

Among key evidence that prosecutors have presented against Luna, 33, are a detailed 43-minute videotaped confession, DNA evidence found on several chicken bones and testimony by two former high school friends who implicated Luna and co-defendant James Degorski, 34, who is awaiting trial.

State's Atty. Richard Devine, who is leading the prosecution's case, told jurors at the start of trial that Luna wanted to do "something big."

"Sadly, we have to say they accomplished their goal ... and as a result seven people lost their lives," Devine said.

The defense contends that Luna's confession was coerced and that police bungled the investigation over nine years, including losing evidence.

"I'm here to free an innocent man. Juan Luna is not guilty," Clarence Burch said during his opening statement.

Luna's own words offered the most compelling testimony during trial, which began April 13. Jurors sat at the edge of their seats, studiously taking notes as they watched him calmly detail the crimes in a 2002 videotaped statement.

"They were yelling, 'Don't shoot us, please don't shoot us,'
" Luna said on the tape.

Luna said on the tape he chose the restaurant to rob because, as a former employee, he knew there were no security systems and knew the layout. He also describes how he fatally slit the throat of the restaurant's co-owner Lynn Ehlenfeldt, 49, after she opened a safe.

"With everything getting wild and crazy, I got caught up in the moment and cut her throat," he said on the tape.

The men also are charged with the killing Ehlenfeldt's husband, Richard, 50; and employees Tom Mennes, 32; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Michael Castro, 16; Guadalupe Maldonado, 46; and Rico Solis, 17.

The defense attempted to show that the confession was coerced by calling Luna's family, who testified that police purposely hid him away after arresting him on May 16, 2002. When relatives saw him the next day, he had given the confession, they testified.

To further cast doubt on Luna's confession, the defense played a 1999 videotaped confession from a Mt. Prospect man who never was charged.

Palatine Police Sgt. Steve Bratcher testified that he took the Mt. Prospect man's confession and said under questioning by Burch, one of Luna's lawyers, that it is possible that an innocent person could confess to a crime he didn't commit.

"A perfectly innocent person in the custody of the Palatine police can confess to a crime that he absolutely did not commit?" Burch asked.

"Yes," Bratcher said.

But a Cook County prosecutor who worked on the case testified that they never believed the Mt. Prospect man -- who claimed to have a "vision" about the crime -- because of conflicting details he gave and because evidence did not support it.

"He gave five different statements, none of which was identical," Assistant State's Atty. John Dillon testified. "At the conclusion of those five statements, I sent him home."

Prosecutors also focused heavily on DNA evidence Luna allegedly left behind on two chicken bones, which were found in the restaurant in 1993. Luna, in his statement, said he discarded the meal in a garbage can on the west side of the restaurant, where it was found.

Experts testifying for the prosecution said the DNA evidence on Luna could match only 1 in 2.8 trillion other people.

But the defense attempted to hammer away at the DNA evidence by focusing on what they called shoddy police work. Defense witnesses testified that chicken tested in 1994 did not yield any DNA and was destroyed in the process; that swabs containing DNA evidence in the case were lost in the mail after they yielded two samples in 1998 -- one of which allegedly was linked to Luna; and that a state crime lab computer containing electronic DNA was sold off as scrap, until it and the data was retrieved.

Jurors and court spectators often seemed dazed by all of the scientific DNA testimony -- even the Human Genome Project was referenced. But prosecutors hope that Luna's videotaped confession and testimony from two women credited with helping to break the case will resonate with jurors.

Anne Lockett and Eileen Bakalla, high school friends of Luna and Degorski, testified separately that they knew about the crimes soon after they occurred in 1993 but kept quiet until 2002.

Luna's defense lawyers questioned why the women waited so long to come forward and attempted to depict them as drug addicts whose histories were so unstable that the could not be believed.

Bakalla testified that she picked the men up hours after they allegedly committed the murders and did drugs with them later that night. She said she took $50 from Degorski and heard the men talking about the crimes. She said she feared Luna, who she said gave her the "heebie-jeebies."

Lockett, Degorski's girlfriend at the time, testified that Degorski was abusive and threatened to kill her if she told police.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/l...ck=1&cset=true
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Old 05-10-2007, 01:28 AM
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Exclamation Jurors begin deliberating in restaurant slayings case

Jurors begin deliberating in restaurant slayings case

CHICAGO — Prosecutors told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday there was “no rush to judgment” in building the case against an appliance installer accused of killing seven suburban fast-food restaurant employees in 1993.

Defense attorneys, however, tried to paint a portrait of shoddy police work and authorities who felt pressure to finally solve the high-profile crime at Brown’s Chicken and Pasta in Palatine.

Juan Luna, 33, faces a possible death sentence if convicted. Following a marathon day of closing arguments, jurors deliberated for a few hours before leaving Wednesday evening. The jury, which resumes deliberations on Thursday, will remain sequestered until it reaches a verdict.

Prosecutors say Luna and high school friend James Degorski decided to rob the restaurant at closing time because Luna had worked there and knew there’d be lots of cash and little resistance.

The bodies of restaurant owners Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, and employees Michael Castro, 16, Guadalupe Maldonado, 46, Thomas Mennes, 32, Marcus Nellsen, 31, and Rico Solis, 17, were found in a walk-in freezer and a cooler.

Richard Ehlenfeldt had served as an aide to Wisconsin Acting Gov. Martin Schreiber during the 1970s. The Ehlenfeldts’ daughter, Rep. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, serves in the Wisconsin Assembly.

The case against Luna hinges on several key pieces of evidence, including DNA recovered from the remnant of a chicken dinner the night of the crime.

Prosecutors say DNA material on the dinner matches Luna’s and links him to the killings.

Defense attorneys continued their attack on the reliability of that evidence during closing arguments, saying both that the DNA might not be Luna’s and that, even if it was, it doesn’t prove he committed the crime.

“The most this proves is that Juan Luna might have eaten some chicken at some point,” at the restaurant, said defense attorney Allan Sincox.

The evidence against Luna, who was 18 at the time of the killings, also included a videotaped confession, which jurors watched during the trial.

During closing arguments, defense attorneys alleged police coerced the statement and that Luna was only telling police what they wanted him to say.

“He’s just doing the best he can to keep these gentlemen (the police) happy,” Sincox said, referring to the videotape.

The defense also urged jurors to consider another confession given by a man who police said they later excluded as a suspect.

“The very fact that they have a detailed confession from somebody else ought to at least raise a reasonable doubt,” Sincox said.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors used the time that has passed since the killings to try to prove that investigators were careful in building the case.

“It’s taken 14 years to get to this point. There’s been no rush to judgment,” said Cook County Assistant State’s Attorney Scott Cassidy.

Luna was arrested nearly five years ago. Both he and Degorski have pleaded not guilty to the murders. Degorski will be tried separately.

http://www.lacrossetribune.com/artic...yings0510w.txt
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Old 05-10-2007, 12:11 PM
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Post Juror dismissed in Brown's case

The Associated Press
Published May 10, 2007, 11:19 AM CDT
The judge in the trial of a 33-year-old man accused of killing seven people at a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in suburban Chicago in 1993 dismissed one of the jurors.

Judge Vincent Gaughan placed an alternate on the panel hearing the case against Juan Luna. There's no word on the reason for the switch, and deliberations then started again.

Associated Press

I used to live close to the restaurant. The last time I checked they turned the restaurant into a dry cleaners. If you drive by it's such a chilling feeling, it's scary. I hope they both get what they deserve.
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Old 05-10-2007, 11:28 PM
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Post Jury finds Luna guilty in Brown's Chicken trial

WLS

May 10, 2007 (CHICAGO) - A jury found one of two men accused in the Brown's Chicken murders guilty on all counts Thursday. The Brown's Chicken murders happened in Palatine back in 1993.
This trial forced the victims' relatives to relive their loved ones deaths. They sat through gruesome videos and photographs and graphic descriptions of how the victims spent their last moments. Thursday, they heard what they had hoped: Juan Luan guilty on all counts.

Few of the victims' relatives commented during the trial. Thursday night, they stood together and through their tears they applauded the verdict and those who led to the conviction.

"Juan Luna was able to live his life for nine years following the murders. Today he is finally being held responsible," said Jennifer Shilling, daughter of Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt.

They had waited 14 years for someone to be convicted for the murders of their loved ones. Seven people were killed in 1993 at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta in Palatine. Among them the owners: Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt. It was their oldest daughter who read a prepared statement.

"During this trial we have had to live with the daily reminders of how they were brutally killed. But we prefer to remember how they lived. Our parents would have celebrated their 43rd wedding anniversary this year," said Shilling.

Jessica Nelson was a child when her father Marcus was killed.

"I've grown up without a dad," Nelson said. "It doesn't really help. It can't bring back my childhood."

In 2002, Palatine police arrested James Degorski and Juan Luna. Luna confessed on videotape and investigators say evidence linked Luna to the crime, most notably DNA on eaten chicken at the restaurant. Defense attorneys argued that the confession was coerced and that the evidence was mishandled.

Despite missteps in the investigation, jurors appear to believe it was Juan Luna who walked into the Brown's intent on armed robbery and walked out a mass murderer.

"It never really brings closure, because my son will never come back ," said Diane Clayton, mother of Marcus Nelson.

"As long as it's guilty. That's it. It's their decision now," said Evelyn Urgena, mother of Rico Solis.

Juan Luna's family did not comment. They had also attended every day of the four week trial.

Thursday night, the victim's relatives offered sympathy for the Luna family and acknowledge their pain of losing him to prison and possibly to the death penalty.

While jurors were allowed to go home, they are not free to discuss the case, because next week, they will decide if Luna should get the death penalty. Attorneys remain under the judge's gag order as that sentencing phase starts on Monday.

A juror was dismissed Thursday morning. While he is allowed to comment, he declined.

James Degorski, the other man charged, is awaiting trial.

The unsolved Brown's Chicken murders haunted the people of Palatine for more than a dozen years.

The Palatine building has long since been torn down and remains a parking lot. But, for many in this community, recollections of the horrific crime that occurred there are still quite vivid.

"People say, How could it have happened? You know, when people were up and around and moving, and it's in the middle of town, How could it have happened? But it did," said Rita Mullins, Palatine mayor.

Mullins had been mayor for four years when the murders occurred. Like others she wondered as time passed if they would ever be solved.

Lorraine Amato wondered too and knows how it affected her community.

"If you go to another country they've heard about it. So I think it's given us a really bad reputation. Say Palatine, Oh my God, Isn't that where that terrible Brown's Chicken murder occurred?" said Amato.

The hope now among residents is that a verdict will help heal the scars and bring some relief.

"I felt relieved when he was arrested. I was glad that they had a break in the case. It was too bad it took so long," said Kathy Murray, resident.

"The community I think can finally start having some peace of mind and just overall have it behind us and start moving forward," said Brad Joerger, resident.

That is also the hope of the mayor, who like so many others wondered if this day would ever come.

"We're starting more for closure. It's not completely closed yet, but I can't see had the verdict gone any other way, I think it would be like ripping people's hearts out," said Mullins.

There is, of course, still sentencing and then another trial. As for Thursday's verdict, the mayor says, it answers the question "Who?" but the question "Why?" may never fully be answered.


YES!!!!!
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