Brown's Chicken - Woman tells her secrets about 7 brutal slayings



From the Chicago Tribune--

Woman tells her secrets about 7 brutal slayings

By Carlos Sadovi and Azam Ahmed
Tribune staff reporters
Published April 24, 2007, 10:36 PM CDT

Anne Lockett, the troubled girlfriend who kept secrets about the
Brown's Chicken massacre for almost a decade, took the witness stand
Tuesday in the trial of one of the men charged with the 1993 murders,
publicly telling the story she once thought she would never utter to
anybody.

Lockett, 31, talked about defendant Juan Luna and her former
boyfriend, James Degorski, bragging about the Palatine killings. She
testified before a packed Cook County circuit courtroom that the men
told her they went to the restaurant with "pockets full of bullets."

Before the day was over, Lockett, dressed in a blue-and-white
maternity top, would also testify to her own suicidal tendencies,
heavy drug use and psychiatric treatment. She seemed matter-of-fact as
she recalled how she was hospitalized on Jan. 7, 1993, just a day
before the murders, because she had tried to kill herself by
overdosing on cold medication.

But in the seventh day of testimony in Luna's trial, it was Lockett's
recounting of the events of 1993 that held the courtroom rapt after
days of scientific testimony.

She said Degorski, whom she met at Fremd High School in Palatine and
began dating in 1992, called her while she was in the hospital
recovering from the suicide attempt. She did not say what day she got
that call, but prosecutors said Degorski told her to watch the news
the day the bodies were discovered on Jan. 9, 1993, according to court
records.

"The lead story was the Brown's Chicken murders," Lockett said calmly.

Luna, 33, is on trial for the murders of Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50; his
wife, Lynn, 49; Tom Mennes, 32; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Michael Castro,
16; Guadalupe Maldonado, 46; and Rico Solis, 17. Luna and Degorski,
34, whose trial date has not been set yet, could face the death
penalty if convicted. Both men deny the allegations.

Lockett, now a manager of a gas station, said that days after her
release from the hospital she went to Degorski's Hoffman Estates home.

"Jim asked me if I wanted to know what happened in the Brown's
Chicken; I said yes," Lockett said.

Planned alibi

Degorski began by telling her that he planned to use another high
school friend, Eileen Bakalla, as an alibi if they were ever
questioned. Bakalla testified earlier that Luna did use her for an
alibi.Lockett said the men told her that they put on old clothes and
shoes and that they walked "funny" through the snow toward the
restaurant so as not to leave footprints that could be matched to
them.

Before they entered the restaurant, they wedged an employee entrance
door shut, she said. Luna ordered a chicken meal and ate it, which she
said made Degorski angry because he believed the grease would leave
fingerprints.

Forensics experts have testified that Luna's DNA was on several
chicken bones found in a garbage can at the restaurant.

Lockett said the men then allegedly went into a bathroom to put on
rubber gloves and soon after began fighting with one of the employees.

She testified that the men told her they were armed with Degorski's
silver .38-caliber revolver.

"They had their pockets full of bullets," Lockett said. "They said
they used the gun to shoot people; they said both of them used the
gun. Juan shot one man but did not kill him, and Jim had to take care
of the rest."

As Luna, Degorski and Lockett sat talking about the killings, she said
Luna seemed excited.

"Juan described how he slit the throat of a woman who made him mad.
Something was wrong with the safe, and he called her a [expletive],"
she said, holding her left hand out to imitate for jurors a person
slashing with a knife.

"Juan was very physically into it, very animated, and Jim was just
sitting on the bed," she said.

She said that after the killings the men allegedly disposed of their
clothes in Dumpsters. She said Degorski told her that they dumped the
gun in the Fox River in either Algonquin or Carpentersville.

Gun never found

The gun was never recovered, but she said that before the killings she
had seen the gun in Degorski's bedroom on several occasions.

"It was usually on his table next to the bed, near the alarm clock,"
she said.

Lockett testified that she accompanied Luna, a former Brown's
employee, when he was questioned by Palatine police weeks after the
killing. She said both she and Luna dressed nicely and Luna wore a tie
and a trenchcoat to the interview.

Lockett said under questioning by Assistant Cook County State's Atty.
Tom Biesty that she had been hospitalized in 1992 and 1993 for suicide
attempts and that she is a recovering alcoholic. She testified that
for much of her life she was addicted to drugs and alcohol, which she
used to block out a "rough" family life. She said her father was a
verbally abusive alcoholic.

During cross-examination by Luna's lawyer, Clarence Burch, Lockett
detailed how she began using marijuana at age 14 and said she and
Degorski were smoking it almost every day while they were dating. She
also testified that in 1993 she was taking LSD three or four times a
week and did drugs or drank heavily nearly every day during that time.
Burch attempted to poke holes in her testimony by questioning her
memory and indicated that during a 1992 hospitalization she asked to
be tested for memory loss.

He also questioned how Lockett could keep such a secret.

"They told you this horrific story, how seven people had suffered and
died and you never told anyone?" Burch said.

"I was afraid for my life," Lockett said, admitting that she continued
to see Degorski and Luna that year and take drugs with them. "I never
planned on telling anyone."

Lockett said Degorski was verbally abusive before the killings but
afterward became physically abusive. She said Degorski threatened to
kill her if she ever told anyone about what happened.

She said she blocked out the incident and said it wasn't until 2001,
after getting a college degree in psychology, that she felt "mature
enough" to discuss the case. She first told her boyfriend at the time
and a roommate. But it was another former high school friend who
persuaded her to go to Palatine police in 2002.

"The guilt I had that I knew who had done these things outweighed the
fear I had," she said. "I knew I owed it to the families of the
victims."

csadovi;@tribune.com
aahmed;@tribune.com
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-070424browns-trial,1,2066238.story?coll=chi-news-hed

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