Daily Herald
Families divided on future of Brown's
By John Carpenter | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:58 PM

Originally published Jan. 30, 1993

Most of the family members of the victims in the Brown's Chicken & Pasta murders say the now-famous Palatine eatery never should be reopened.

Some even say the lot should be cleared and left as a memorial to the seven people killed there three weeks ago.

"Give us a memorial, a place to put our flags and flowers," said Emmanuel Castro, father of 16-year-old victim Michael Castro, "I don't want to look at that building."

Police expect to release the building to its owners sometime next week, Palatine Deputy Police Chief Walt Gasior said Friday.

Currently it is still sealed in the event evidence technicians need to gather more information.

The daughters of Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt, owners of the franchise, have said they would like to keep the business going, though no definite plans have been announced.

"In some capacity, we'd like to see Brown's open again," Jennifer Ehlenfeldt said Friday. "But again, it's too early to tell. There's a lot of legal things we're looking into as far as the estate."

Other family members of victims say they have no strong feelings about the building. And they say the Ehlenfeldts should be able to do whatever they want with it.

"I think what happened had nothing to do with the place. I would never go into the place myself," said Diane Clayton, mother of victim Marcus Nellsen, who avoided passing the restaurant when she came to Palatine after her son's death.

"The Ehlenfeldt girls should be able to do whatever they want. Tearing it down wouldn't help me at all. It's not going to bring my son back. It's not going to bring their parents back," said Clayton, who lives in Millington, Tenn.

Likewise Ken Pittenger, former assistant manager at the Palatine Brown's, said the owners should "do whatever they want. It's up to them."

Pittenger said he tries to avoid driving by the building and would continue to do so if it reopened.

Others, however, feel more strongly.

The building should be torn down, said Joy McClain, Marcus Nellsen's girlfriend, who lives near the restaurant. She refers to the McDonald's restaurant in San Ysidro, Calif., which was torn down.

A small memorial was built there in memory of the 21 people who were gunned down in the restaurant in 1984.

But unlike other families, McClain does not want this.

"I want to focus on what Marcus gave me, not emphasize his death."

But, she added, "I want it torn down. They tore down that McDonald's. Repave it for parking, like it never existed."

"Tear it down. Put a memorial up," said Diane Mennes, sister-in-law of victim Thomas Mennes. "I have a feeling that whoever owns Brown's Chicken, they'd never get employees to work there."

Daily Herald staff writers Diane Dungey and Deedra Lawhead contributed to this story.