Daily Herald
Blake gun ruled out as murder weapon
By Alex Rodriguez and Dan Culloton | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/4/2009 5:03 PM | Updated: 8/4/2009 9:48 PM

Originally published Jan. 13, 1993

Palatine police are expanding their investigation of the murder of seven people at a fast-food restaurant on several fronts, including the possibility that multiple gunmen committed the crime with robbery as a motive.

On a day that saw many of the questions about the murders at Brown's Chicken & Pasta focus on how police responded to calls for help, sources provided the following revelations on Tuesday:

• More than one gun was used in the Friday night massacre, heightening the possibility that two or more people committed the crime.

• The killers appeared to have emptied the cash register, then took the time to spotlessly clean the bloody crime scene, leaving behind a blood-stained broom.

• A gun was recovered during the search of the Elgin home of the only known suspect, Martin E. Blake. However, it was not the same caliber of the guns used in the crime.

• A woman who tentatively had identified Blake as being in the restaurant at about the time of the killing later recanted her story. After seeing a photo of one of the victims on television, she realized she had confused that person with Blake.

• Authorities in Arlington Heights, Des Plaines and Mundelein have told Palatine investigators about two recent arrests in connection with armed robberies in their suburbs, and possibly Glenview and Morton Grove. Apparently seeking information about any similar crimes to the Palatine case, police also have sought information about the robbery and shooting of a gas station attendant in Addison.

• Two veteran homicide police officers from Chicago have been assigned to the case.

A source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Palatine police have learned that two or more guns - all .38 caliber revolvers, but not the caliber weapon taken from Blake's house - were used in the murders.

Also, the killers shot their victims, dumped the bodies in two walk-in coolers, then took the time to meticulously clean up the restaurant.

Authorities were "amazed at how cleaned up it was. It was immaculate," the source said.

An expert on police investigations downplayed any suggestion that the clean-up meant the killings were the work of professionals, but he added that the implications cannot be understated. "It's very significant," said the expert, who asked not to be identified.

"Who would do such a dastardly deed and clean up? If it's a random shooting, it's 'Boom! Boom! Boom!' and they're out of there. Why else would somebody do this other than to remove footprints (and other evidence)?

"This takes time. Other people had to be involved. There had to be a lookout. It's very significant to the case."

Another source said several key elements, like the number of shots fired and the position of the bodies in the restaurant, also are leading investigators to lean toward the theory that more than one gunman committed the slayings.

"At this point, I think it is very probable that it was more than one gunman," the source said. "That is speculative. But that is certainly what it looks like."

The bodies of the husband-and-wife team who owned the restaurant and five workers were found at about 2:30 a.m. Saturday inside two coolers. Each victim had been shot; some had been shot in the face.

Killed in the slayings were owners Richard Ehlenfeldt, 50, and his wife Lynn, 49, both of Arlington Heights; and employees Rico Solis, 17, of Arlington Heights; Michael Castro, 16; Marcus Nellsen, 31; Thomas Mennes, 32; and Guadalupe Maldonado, 48, all of Palatine.

Police have been tight-lipped about the investigation from the onset. Residents and business people became doubly concerned about the slayings when Blake, the only person held for questioning, was released Monday.

Police found a gun at Blake's Elgin house during a search on Saturday afternoon. For two days afterward, he was questioned by police.

Authorities have said Blake has an alibi placing him at his home at the time of the murders, though they cautioned they have not ruled out anyone as a suspect.

Blake had been fired from his job at the Brown's Chicken & Pasta a week before the bodies were discovered.

Sources have said he was upset about his firing and had talked of revenge.

Palatine police have refused to say what they found at Blake's house.

Repeated attempts to reach Blake on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

His attorney, Dennis Born, had told reporters on Monday that Blake would have some comments about his time in custody. But on Tuesday, Born said Blake would not meet with reporters because it would be "inappropriate" to do so while the funerals for the victims were being held.

Castro's father, Emmanuel Castro, revealed Tuesday that Blake dated his daughter about four years ago. The couple, now friends, spoke the Thursday before the bodies were found, he said.

"He's a nice guy," said Emmanuel Castro about Blake. "I would not suspect him. He called me today and Saturday (before he was arrested). He was expressing his sympathy."

The search for clues has branched out to area police departments with pending cases that, in some way, parallel the Palatine slayings.

In one of those other cases, Ruben Loyola, 20, who has no permanent address, was charged with the Dec. 19 robbery of a Taco Bell at 1175 E. Oakton St. in Des Plaines. Loyola and another man, Richard Farberger, 21, of 829 MacIntosh, Mount Prospect, also were charged with the Dec. 7 holdups of the Super Mexico grocery store in Mundelein and the Castillo's grocery store in Arlington Heights on Dec. 22.

Both men are being held in Cook County Jail. No one was injured in the robberies

Police in those towns stressed that they had no information that directly linked the robberies to the murders in Palatine.

In addition, Palatine investigators have called the DuPage County Sheriff's department and asked for details of the Nov. 15 hold-up of a Purple Martin Mini-Mart in Addison, DuPage sheriff's investigator Bruce Wachtel said.

In that hold-up, two men ordered an employee to lie on the ground and then shot her six times with a .45 caliber gun.

The employee, assistant manager Patti Lacefield, survived the attack. She was shot three times in her stomach, once in the shoulder, and once in each leg. Police have not apprehended the men and have no suspects. The men fled with less than $200 cash.

Wachtel said he turned over information to Palatine police about the gun used, details about the attack, and a description of the attackers.

Palatine Deputy Police Chief Wall Gasior also said the FBI has been called in to help with the case. He said investigators are making preparations to construct a psychological profile of the killer or killers using FBI experts.