Twenty years ago today, Juan Luna and Jim Degorski entered a Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine and committed one of the most awful crimes in Illinois history, killing seven people in what jurors later found to be premeditated murder.
The pair escaped justice for nearly a decade until investigators caught a break. Degorski had told an ex-girlfriend of his role in the killings, and a friend who overheard her talking about it in 2002 went to police.
Another piece of evidence was crucial to the case. Investigators had saved a discarded meal from the scene, and as DNA analysis improved, they were able to match DNA left on a chicken bone with Juan Luna's saliva. The two were arrested in May 2002.
Luna was convicted of murder in 2007, and Degorski followed two years later. Jurors spared them the death penalty, but both are serving life sentences with no possibility of parole.
Joy Ehlenfeldt, 38, daughter of slain restaurant owners Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, said this year's milestone has been harder than most because her parents have been gone for more than half of her life.
She said she hoped the memory of the crime would lead to action to reduce violence in America.
"Every time (a mass shooting) happens, people say, 'This will make the difference,' " said Ehlenfeldt, now a Chicago physical therapist. "We really need to say enough is enough. I don't want the community of Palatine to have this as a black mark. It was a great place to grow up. But we need to remember that this happened, and is still happening, and we need to deal with it with greater urgency."
Twitter: @JohnKeilmanCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun