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DNA match sought in Brown's case
Chris Fusco and Sandra Del Re | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/29/2007

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First published: April 8, 2000

DNA information left on a piece of chicken is being circulated through a national genetic database in hopes it will lead police to the killer of seven people at a Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine.

"We have a profile," said James Kearney, laboratory director for the Illinois State Police Forensic Science Center at Chicago. "Who it belongs to we have no idea."

Neither Palatine police nor Kearney would comment about how the DNA was obtained, but a source close to the investigation said it came from dried saliva on a chicken bone.

The profile has been entered into a constantly updated genetic database supervised by the FBI. Investigators are hopeful a match will be found.

Police also are attempting to find a DNA match with previous suspects in the case.

At least four have been asked to submit new DNA samples, and police have confirmed they've taken samples from suspects throughout the mass-murder probe.

Palatine Police Chief Jack W. McGregor and Brown's task force Coordinator James F. Bell declined comment on the DNA evidence and the results of DNA testing of previous suspects.McGregor stressed the case is still wide open.

"We've never ruled any (suspect) in and we've never ruled anyone out," he said.

Technology state police began using in 1998 allowed scientists to get the DNA sample. The mass murder happened Jan. 8, 1993, with the bone and other parts of a meal being stored by police.Investigators long have said the killer entered the restaurant just after its 9 p.m. closing time and ordered the meal as a ruse.

Cash register records show an employee rung the day's last meal at 9:08 p.m. and the remnants of the meal discovered in the restaurant reportedly matched the receipt.The meal also caught the eyes of investigators because it reportedly was the only item in a trash bin. All other garbage had been taken out for the night.Investigators previously claimed the killer never ate the meal, but McGregor and Bell declined comment when questioned about the possibility Friday.

They also declined to say whether any new suspects had surfaced.Thomas B. Kirkpatrick, president of the Chicago Crime Commission, viewed the ongoing review of DNA evidence as a positive development in the case. At the very least, police can use it to rule out suspects.

"Once you eliminate all the impossible scenarios," Kirkpatrick said, "that lets you focus on what remains."

And the fact all 50 states have or are building their own DNA databases that link through the FBI is cause for hope that a match might someday be found.

Florida, one of the first states to create a database, has matched up DNA evidence with the genetic codes of 215 offenders since launching its program in 1990, said David Coffman, Florida's DNA database supervisor.

In Illinois, DNA records have led police to at least 100 matches with once-unknown suspects, said Karen Kucharik, supervisor of offender database relations for the state police.

Hundreds of thousands of more offenders are expected to be entered into statewide databases over the next few years, Coffman said. States are lobbying Congress to provide federal dollars to help get more so-called DNA fingerprinting done.

Those killed in the Brown's murders were franchise owners Lynn Ehlenfeldt, 49, and her husband, Richard, 50; employees Michael Castro, 16; Guadalupe Maldonado, 47; Thomas Mennes, 32; Marcus Nellsen, 31; and Rico Solis, 17.