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Expert: Napkin print had to be Luna's
By Joseph Ryanand Stacy St. Clair | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 4/19/2007

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What's new:Print analyst testifies that no one but Juan Luna could have left a print on a napkin found at Brown's Chicken.

What's next:Defense cross-examines the analyst, followed by additional prosecution witnesses.

A dime-size print from just below a pinky finger is enough to exclude everyone but Juan Luna as one of the last people in the Palatine Brown's Chicken before the worst slaying in suburban history, a print analyst testified Wednesday. That napkin was found in a nearly-empty garbage can next to what is thought to be the last meal ordered at the restaurant on the night of Jan. 8, 1993.

"This case by far was the largest effort [by the state crime lab]," testified John Onstwedder III, a print examiner with the Forensic Science Center of Chicago.

On a projection screen before the jury in Luna's murder trial, Onstwedder showed how more than three dozen tiny ridges and bumps from the napkin print matched a left-palm print taken from the defendant after his 2002 arrest for the crimes. Onstwedder explained how all the ridges matched Luna.

The print is one of the most crucial pieces of evidence against Luna. The prosecution also has a videotaped confession, testimony from two witnesses who say Luna told them of the killings and his DNA on chicken bones found next to the napkin.

Luna's defense team maintains that the print - actually a photograph of a print taken after the crime - is too distorted to be properly matched to Luna.

The defense will cross-examine Onstwedder this afternoon.

The defense also says the DNA evidence is fraudulent, the two witnesses are lying and the confession was coerced after 19 hours of interrogation.

The prosecution claims that after Luna wiped his hands from eating part of a four-piece chicken meal, he and pal Jim Degorski put on gloves under their table and stormed the counter with a gun and knife demanding everyone get on the floor.

Prosecutors say Luna, a former Brown's employee, and Degorski killed the restaurant's two owners and five workers that night in an attempt to "do something big."

Authorities have never said there is DNA evidence or prints linking Degorski to the crime.

The men, who are being tried separately, have pleaded not guilty. If convicted, both could face the death penalty.

Register receipts show the restaurant served its last meal, a four-piece meal with a small drink, at 9:08 p.m.

The vast majority of the meal - including at least three untouched pieces, two uneaten biscuits, unopened honey containers and at least three dozen french fries - was discovered in an otherwise empty trash can. All the other trash cans in the building were empty.

In an effort to prevent the trial from becoming bogged down by scientific evidence, the prosecution is spending time each day focusing on one of the seven victims: Michael Castro, Lynn Ehlenfeldt, Richard Ehlenfeldt, Guadalupe Maldonado, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen and Rico Solis.

On Wednesday, Juan Maldonado, who was 14 when his 47-year-old father was killed, testified that his last words to his son that day where "I'll see you later."

The next morning Juan Maldonado woke up and received a phone call from his mother. "She told us my dad is not going to be with us anymore because he is dead," he told the jury.

Guadalupe Maldonado, and his wife and three young boys had recently returned to Palatine from a stay in their hometown in Mexico.

He had been working as a cook at Brown's Chicken for about two weeks before he was found dead in a freezer with multiple gunshots and defensive knife wounds on his arm.