Timeline of the Brown's Chicken murder case

  • Victims' friends and relatives put up signs in the windows of the Brown's Chicken and Pasta six months after the murders.

    Victims' friends and relatives put up signs in the windows of the Brown's Chicken and Pasta six months after the murders. Daily Herald file Photo/1993

  • Anne Lockett

    Anne Lockett

Posted1/9/2013 5:30 AM

Jan. 8, 1993: Seven murdered at Brown's Chicken & Pasta in Palatine; victims found in a walk-in cooler and freezer.

Jan. 9, 1993: Police arrest former Brown's worker but release him two days later. The Elgin man later is cleared of suspicion, sues for wrongful arrest and settles with Palatine in 1997.


Jan. 14, 1993: More than 60 investigators from many police agencies work the case, sorting through 1,150 leads.

Jan. 15, 1993: Police arrest five men but quickly release all but one, holding him on an unrelated charge.

Jan. 25, 1993: Reward reaches $100,000.

July 2, 1993: Relatives of some victims hang signs in Brown's windows reading, "Who killed 7 people 6 months ago and why?"

March 21, 1994: Palatine police arrest and then release a Chicago man.

April 1995: Brown's Chicken and Pasta opens in a new Palatine site with a state-of-the-art security system. "We're happy to be back," says Brown's president Frank Portillo. Former FBI investigator James F. Bell, who worked on the cases of serial killer Ted Bundy and the Green River murders, is brought into the case by Palatine police.

Jan. 8, 1996: Seven people still at work on Brown's task force. "I don't know when, but it will be solved," former Palatine Police Chief Jerry Bratcher says.

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November 1997: Northwest suburban police departments form Major Case Assistance Team, which commits investigators from numerous towns to work on murders and other crimes.

Nov. 20, 1997: The Better Government Association releases "Patent Malarkey: Public Dishonesty and Deception," a critique of the police work on the case. Palatine village and police officials decry the report's contents.

April 27, 2001: Brown's Chicken & Pasta building torn down. A Chase Bank opened at the site in 2010.

March 25, 2002: Police tip No. 4,842 comes in from James Degorski's ex-girlfriend Anne Lockett, who after nine years breaks her silence with a call to friend Melissa Oberle. Lockett said Juan Luna and Degorski, friends at Fremd High School in the early 1990s, detailed their involvement in the weeks after the murders.

May 8, 2002: Palatine police link Luna's DNA to a partly eaten chicken dinner saved from the restaurant in 1993.

May 16, 2002: Police arrest Juan Luna, 28, at a Carpentersville gas station and James Degorski, 29, near Indianapolis.


July 3, 2002: Luna and Degorski plead not guilty.

May 10, 2007: Luna convicted after jury deliberates for 11 hours. In addition to his DNA and partial palm print, evidence in the 14-day trial included a 43-minute video confession in which Luna gives a bullet-by-bullet account of the killings.

May 17, 2007: A young mother is the jury's lone holdout against giving Luna the death penalty. He is sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Sept. 29, 2009: Despite the absence of physical evidence, Degorski is convicted by a jury after less than two hours of deliberations. Prosecutors relied largely on Degorski's statements to authorities and the testimony of ex-girlfriends Anne Lockett and Eileen Bakalla, who both learned of the bloodshed from Luna and Degorski.

Oct. 20, 2009: Degorski is sentenced to life in prison without parole after two jurors refuse to give him the death penalty.

Feb. 28, 2010: Former Palatine Councilman Jack Wagner issues $98,129 reward split evenly between Lockett and Oberle. Wagner, who started the campaign with $1,000 of his own, refused to give any to Bakalla, who stayed silent until police confronted her.

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