Family members of Palatine victims speak out

October 20, 2009 8:49:23 PM PDT
A jury gave a life sentence to a man convicted of killing seven people at a suburban restaurant.James Degorski could have received the death penalty for the 1993 murders at a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine.

Video: Family of the victims react to the sentence Part I
Video: Family of the victims react to the sentence Part II
Video: Family of the victims react to the sentence Part III
Video: Family of the victims react to the sentence Part IV

His case languished for years until a former girlfriend of Degorski's came forward.

Two men were arrested and now both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

All parties involved in the case have been under Judge Vincent Gaughan's gag order and forbidden to speak publically. Today they had their say.

"Our lives are incomplete without the presence of our parents and our hearts will always know their loss," said Michelle Schilling whose parents Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt were murdered.

The families of the victims have waited 16 years for this case to close. They left the courtroom united in their pain.

"We lost a loved one but gained a bigger family and I love you all so very much," said Mary Jane Crow whose brother murdered.

A death sentence would require a unanimous jury. After five hours deliberating it was clear there would not be unanimity. The verdict was a difficult blow for some relatives. "In my opinion, James Degorski deserved the death penalty," said Diane Clayton whose son murdered.

"If murdering seven people in the horrific ways he did is not enough for the death penalty, in my mind I wonder what is?" said Ann Ehlenfeldt whose brother murdered.

James Degorski's mother who sat through nearly everyday of the trial express relief on Tuesday night.

"I appreciate the jury's decision and my heart goes out to the families, what the victims have been through with this whole trial and I appreciate just how kind and caring they have been," said Patricia Degorski.

James Degorski was convicted of the murders of seven people at the Browns Chicken and Pasta in Palatine in 1993.

His high school friend, Juan Luna, was convicted for the crimes in 2007. In Luna's trial one juror could not vote for the death sentence and he is now serving a life sentence.

Similarly in Degorski's trial, there were two jurors who could not vote for a death sentence. But the majority favored capital punishment.

"It was mainly due to the extreme nature of the crime," said Alex Drott, juror.

"There was tension because obviously we're not in 100 percent agreement and this was a very, very important decision to make," said Cynthia Rathburn, juror.

James Degorski will spend his natural life in prison without the possibility of parole. Only the act of a governor could take him out of prison.


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