Cash reward in Palatine killings stirs debate

October 22, 2009 (PALATINE, Ill.) And they're anxious to close the final chapter with a cash reward for the person who helped police catch the killers.

Days after seven people were found murdered at the Brown's Chicken in Palatine, the community came together with money.

Palatine councilman Jack Wagner started a reward fund with $1,000. The fund grew and grew.

"We actually went door to door in the village of Palatine from business to business and people were very anxious to donate to this and we raised a considerable amount of money and considerable amount of pledges. We have close to $100,000 in cash in the bank at this time and we have probably another $35 or $40,000 in pledges," said Wagner.

The money was meant to be left untouched until the conviction and sentencing of the killers. Now that James Degorski and Juan Luna have been sentenced to life in prison, after 16 years village of Palatine officials are anxious to move on.

"I want to do it quickly and get it over with and if someone is deserving of the reward, then we want to naturally give it to them," said Wagner.

Degorski and Luna were convicted with the help of testimony from Degorski's former girlfriend, Anne Lockett England, and Degorski's friend, Eileen Bakalla. Degorski and Luna confessed to the women but, they kept it a secret for nine years before talking to police.

"It shouldn't go to the girl that kept the secret all those years. I think the girl she told that went on the police department should get all of it or some of it or something of that nature," said Brad Von Sybow.

Von Sybow, owner of a Palatine moving and storage company, contributed to the reward fund. He and Jack Wagner would rather have the money go to Anne Lockett's friend, Melissa Oberele. The Lake County women called police in 2002 after Lockett told her about who committed the murders.

"Less than a half an hour, 15 minutes after finding out that there was information that would be valuable to help solving this crime that she made contact with the police department and the very next morning our investigators were out there following up on this and did intensive investigation and that's what led to the conviction of these two individuals," said Wagner.

The sister of victim Michael Castro also agrees the reward money should go to Melissa Oberele.

Jack Wagner is organizing a meeting on Friday with Palatine's current and former police chiefs, the mayor and other city officials to make the decision.

ABC7 could not reach Oberele. But in 2002, she told the Daily Herald she believed Anne Lockett should get most of the money.

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