Brown's Chicken massacre

The Brown's Chicken Massacre was a mass murder that occurred on January 8, 1993 in Palatine, Illinois, when two robbers killed seven employees at a Brown's Chicken fast-food restaurant.

Brown's Chicken massacre
LocationPalatine, Illinois, United States
Coordinates42°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
DateJanuary 8, 1993; 28 years ago (1993-01-08)
Attack type
Mass murder
WeaponsSnub-nosed Smith & Wesson Model 60 .38-caliber revolver
PerpetratorsJuan Luna
James Degorski

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 of 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.


On January 8, 1993, seven people were killed at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta at 168 West Northwest Highway in Palatine.[1] The victims included the owners, Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, and five employees: Guadalupe Maldonado, Michael C. Castro and Rico L. Solis (the latter two Palatine High School students who were working there part-time), Thomas Mennes, and Marcus Nellsen.[2] The assailants stole between $1,800 and $1,900 from the restaurant.[3] This is equivalent to $3,200 to $3,400 in 2020.[4] 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.[5]

Michael Castro's parents called the police a couple hours after closing time.[6] Later, Guadalupe Maldonado's wife also called the police, concerned that her husband did not return home from work and that his car was still in the apparently closed Brown's Chicken parking lot.[6] 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] When Palatine police found the bodies, it was more than 5½ hours after the 9 p.m. closing.[7]


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][10]

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 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.[11]

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 confessed to them.[12] On October 20, 2009, he was sentenced to life in prison without parole. All but two of the jurors voted for the death penalty.[13]

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


The Chase Bank branch where the Brown's Chicken restaurant once stood

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.[15]

The building was razed in April 2001,[1] after briefly housing a dry cleaning establishment[16] and then standing vacant for many years. A Chase Bank branch office was constructed at the former Brown's location.[17]

As of February 2021, Luna and Degorski are imprisoned at the Stateville Correctional Center.[18]

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d Sadovi, Carlos (2007-03-28). "Brutal crime finally gets its day in court" (PDF). Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  2. ^ Sadovi, Carlos (2007-04-13). "Luna eager for his day in court". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 2009-08-16. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  3. ^ Lee, Henry C.; Labriola, Jerry (2010). Shocking Cases from Dr. Henry Lee's Forensic Files. Amherst, New York: Prometheus Books. p. 97. ISBN 978-1-59102-775-1.
  4. ^ 1634–1699: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States: Addenda et Corrigenda (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1700–1799: McCusker, J. J. (1992). How Much Is That in Real Money? A Historical Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the Economy of the United States (PDF). American Antiquarian Society. 1800–present: Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. "Consumer Price Index (estimate) 1800–". Retrieved January 1, 2020.
  5. ^ Jungen, Anne. "Shilling to share story of survival after parents killed" La Crosse Tribune January 31, 2011
  6. ^ a b Brunner, J. Terrence (1997). "The Brown's Chicken Massacre". Better Government Association. Retrieved 2010-06-03.
  7. ^ Sander, Libby (2007-04-17). "Murder Trial to Begin in Illinois, 14 Years After 7 Died". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-08-06.
  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. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  10. ^ Brandon Loomis -- Associated Press Writer. "'They're just people without a soul': Two charged in Palatine murders". Retrieved 2020-06-03.
  11. ^ Kalsnes, Lynette (2007-07-18). "Jury Decides Against Death Penalty in Brown's Chicken Case". Retrieved 2009-08-06.[permanent dead link]
  12. ^ "Guilty Verdict in Brown's Chicken Trial". NBC Chicago. Sep 29, 2009.
  13. ^ Greiner, Deborah (2009-10-20). "Life in Prison for Degorski". NBC. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  14. ^ "Jury awards Brown's Chicken killer $451K in civil rights case". Chicage Tribune. March 8, 2014.
  15. ^ Hussain, Rummana (2009-08-10). "After Brown's Chicken massacre: 'No one came'". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 2009-08-13. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
  16. ^ Byrne, John (August 5, 2009). "Brown's Chicken massacre comes back to haunt Palatine". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved September 20, 2012.
  17. ^ Pohl, Kimberley (2009-10-20). "Former Brown's Chicken site to become Chase Bank". Daily Herald. Retrieved 2009-10-30.
  18. ^ "Offenders". Illinois Department of Corrections. Retrieved 2020-02-25.

Further readingEdit

  • 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