Families Deliver Emotional Testimony in Degorski Sentencing

Thursday, Oct 1, 2009  |  Updated 4:45 PM CDT
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Family members of the seven people killed at a suburban Chicago restaurant 16 years ago are getting their chance to tell the second man convicted in the murders what he's done to their lives.

Jurors are hearing testimony in the penalty phase of James Degorski's trial.

Diane Clayton's 31-year-old son, Marcus Nellsen, was among those killed at the Brown's Chicken and Pasta restaurant in Palatine in 1993. In emotional testimony Thursday, Clayton talked about the impact her son's death had and how he didn't get to see his daughter grow up.

Nellsen's daughter had a child this year, and Clayton told Degorski her son "would have been so proud, but you took that away from him."

A one-time girlfriend of James Degorski testfied that he once kidnapped her and threatened her life in an unsuccessful attempt to get back together.

Kristin Smith told jurors that when she was 16, Degorski beat her, duct taped her wrists and ankles and forced her into the hatchback of her car. "I only told him I would get back together with him so I could stay alive," Smith said.

Eventually Degorski was charged and received probation for the incident which happened more than a year before the Palatine massacre.

Testimony like this is allowed because jurors must assess Degorski's character before deciding if they will sentence him to to death. Their only other choice is life in prison with no chance of parole.

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