Prosecution rests in Brown's Massacre trial

September 15, 2009 4:25:25 AM PDT
After eight days of testimony, prosecutors wrapped up their case in the murder trial of James Degorski Monday.Degorski is accused of killing seven people at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine, Ill., in 1993. His alleged accomplice, Juan Luna, was convicted in the murders in 2007.

During Degorski's trial, prosecutors built their case by sharing details of the crime and calling witnesses and victims' relatives. On Monday, Dana Sampson, the daughter of the owners of Brown's Chicken-- Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt -- was called to testify.

Sampson, who was supposed to work the nightshift at the restaurant the night of the killings, got the evening off. When she got home from a date with her boyfriend, she found her parents weren't home.

"I thought it was strange the car they drove wasn't there. It had snowed. There was fresh snow and there were no tracks. I didn't know where they were," said Sampson.

Also called on Monday, a coworker of Degorski's who said he had a religious discussion with the suspect.

"He asked me, 'If you kill someone would god forgive you?'" said Walter Hanger, who declined to comment after testifying. During the trial, he discussed his Born Again Christian beliefs.

Another witness was a healthcare worker at the jail who said that Degorski acknowledged the murders when he came in for treatment after being beaten by a corrections officer there. Alesia Hines testified Degorski said, "It was just for fun," when talking about murdering people.

Under cross examination, Hines acknowledged changes in her account of the conversation and not telling anyone about the alleged conversation for years.

The final witness called by the prosecution was a former prosecutor, Michael McHale, who took Degorski's statement after his arrest in 2002. McHale, now a judge, testified that he questioned Degorski overnight in 2002. He said Degorski told him, "He fired a warning shot and he and Luna ordered everyone in the back." When Degorski found the two men in the freezer, "He told me he shot the men. They were kneeling and facing away from him."

According to Judge McHale, Degorski also said, "He saw Juan punch her and cut her neck with a knife. That victim was Lynn Ehlenfeldt, prosecutors said.

The state did not play a videotape taken during the 2002 questioning. That videotape could come up when the defense begins to its witnesses, which will start on Tuesday.


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