Brown's Chicken murders revisited: Why it went unsolved for so many years

 Brown's Chicken
Emergency crews remove a body from a Brown's Chicken restaurant on Jan. 9, 1993 in Palatine, Ill., a day after seven workers were shot to death during an apparent robbery. Photo credit Jose Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS

PALATINE (WBBM NEWSRADIO) - 30 years ago Sunday seven people were murdered at a Brown’s Chicken in Palatine, a case that went unsolved for almost a decade and was one of the most talked about in the Chicago area.

A former investigator said there are lots of lessons in it for law enforcement.

Terry Brunner recalled Brown’s owner Frank Portillo asking him, as then-head of the Better Government Association, to review the police investigation of the murders.

“It was a Chicago (police) detective that was saying that the thing that was screwed up at Brown’s Fried Chicken. Therefore, we should take a look at it,” Brunner said.

What he learned over the next year was the department wasn’t up to the task.

“The chiefs of police in small towns in Chicago suburbs appeared to have a lot of heavy-hitter background ability to solve cases and so forth, and it wasn’t really true because they hadn’t had a lot of experience,” Brunner added.

Brunner’s 1997 report criticized Palatine police for a lack of experience - not uncommon at the time - but he said the department early on argued with more seasoned homicide detectives, wasting crucial days. He found the department failed to secure the crime scene, get fingerprints from former employees and was working with an incompetent crime lab.

Brunner supported the move to bring in more experienced police to help and pointed to the Highland Park shooting as a case where law enforcement learned that lesson.

Now 85-years-old and retired to New Mexico, he said Palatine police “stumbled upon the killers” in 2002 when an ex-girlfriend gave a tip that led to the arrest and conviction of James Degorski and Juan Luna.

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Featured Image Photo Credit: Jose Osorio/Chicago Tribune/TNS