Guilty Verdict in Brown's Chicken Trial

Verdict came back in less than two hours

The man who "wanted to do something big" is now going to the Big House.

After deliberating less than two hours, a jury unanimously found James Degorski guilty of killing seven people in a Palatine restaurant 16 years ago.

The verdict has not yet been set. Jurors will return tomorrow to set sentencing and decide Degorski's eligibility for the death penalty.

The jury, comprised of six men and six women, began deliberating shortly before 2:30 p.m., the weight of the task evident on their faces.

As the clerk repeated the guilty verdict seven times following the name of each of the slain, about three dozen relatives sobbed and clasped hands while huddled together in the courtroom gallery's wooden pews. Across the 4-foot aisle, the defendant's family also bore witness, the Daily Herald reported.

Closing arguments were made Tuesday, and prosecutors focused on the reliability of their two witnesses, Anne England and Eileen Bakalla. Both women broke the case open in 2002 by recounting recollections of Degorski's confession.

Degorksi's attorneys claimed that both women -- especially England, Degorski's ex-girlfriend who has a history of drug use and mental illness -- were unreliable witnesses.

But prosecutors argued that both women had no doubts of the certainty of their recollections. Neither women, prosecutors said, had a reason to lie.

Degorski, 37, was charged  in the Jan. 8, 1993, murders of Brown's Chicken and Pasta owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, his wife Lynn, 49, and five of their employees: Michael Castro, 16; Rico Solis, 17; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Thomas Mennes, 32; Guadalupe Maldonado, 46.
During the nearly month-long trial, prosecutors alleged Degorski shot and stabbed the Palatine restaurant's owners and employees because, in his own words, he "wanted to do something big."

Degorski's attorney contended there was no physical evidence linking his client to the crime. 

Degorski did not testify in the trial. 

Degorski's sentencing is the crime's second.  Degorski's high school friend, Juan Luna, was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life.

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