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Luna's confession contradicts evidence, expert says
By Joseph Ryan and Stacy St. Clair | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/1/2007

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The defense attempted to tear a hole in the case against Juan Luna Tuesday when an expert testified that the defendant's videotaped confession contradicts crime scene evidence from the Brown's Chicken and Pasta murders.

Malcolm Goodwin, a forensic pathologist hired by the defense, told the jury that the slit across owner Lynn Ehlenfeldt's throat was done after a fatal gunshot wound to her head.

But Luna in his confession, and two witnesses who say he bragged about the crime, all said he cut her throat before his accused accomplice, Jim Degorski, shot her in the back of the head.

The 5-inches long and 1/2-inch-deep slash came after she opened the store's safe for Luna, prosecutors say. Her body was found by police with four others in the walk-in freezer. The cut did not sever any major arteries.

Goodwin outlined for jurors blood trails on two gory photos of Ehlenfeldt's head. He said one blood trail shows that the cut was made after the gunshot because it runs straight across the deep gash in her neck.

"It would not have made a clean path," he said. "It can not jump across like that without deviating."

Luna and Degorski are being tried separately for killing seven people at the Palatine Brown's Chicken restaurant on the night Jan. 8, 1993. Both could face the death penalty if convicted.

The prosecution will cross-examine Goodwin this afternoon. On Monday, a Cook County pathologist testified Ehlenfeldt's throat was slit prior to her death - a statement that would match Luna's confession.

The expert told the jury that blood surrounding the cut showed it was made before the gunshot. In contrast, she said, victim Michael Castro was stabbed in the stomach and his wound shows no blood around the cut because it was made after he was killed by gunfire.

Luna's former high school friends, Anne Lockett and Eileen Bakalla, testified for the prosecution earlier in the trial, saying he bragged about the crimes and excitedly depicted slashing Ehlenfeldt's throat.

The prosecution also has Luna's DNA and palm print on garbage found in a near-empty can at the restaurant to link him to the crime.

The defense has argued Luna's old friends are lying and confused because of how many drugs they all were taking at the time. The defense also says the DNA and print evidence against Luna is trumped up and that his confession was coerced after a 19-hour interrogation.

On Monday, a bird expert testified that he handled chicken bones from the crime scene without gloves in 1995. In 2002, after Luna and Degorski were fingered for the Chicago suburbs' biggest mass murder, those chicken bones were tied to Luna through DNA.

Prosecutors allege Luna, now 34, and Degorski fatally shot owners Lynn and Richard Ehlenfeldt and workers Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen, Guadalupe Maldonado, Michael Castro and Rico Solis. Luna and Degorski have pleaded not guilty.

sstclair@dailyherald.com

jryan@dailyherald.com