Palatine officials see end to dark chapter in village history

Published: 10/20/2009 10:09 PM | Updated: 10/20/2009 10:35 PM

James Degorski's life sentence slams the book shut on a dark chapter in Palatine's history, one that's reverberated through the victims' families, the police and the rest of the community for more than 16 years.

"It's been a long road, a painful road for everyone," said former Palatine Police Chief Jerry Bratcher, who was head of the department when the murders occurred on Jan. 8, 1993.

Bratcher said he wasn't surprised by the sentence, adding that "the system has spoken." He thanked elected officials and the community, who he said stood by his department even during "the lean times," when police were criticized for how they handled the murder case, which went unsolved until 2002.

"I said from the beginning it would take one phone call to break this case, and in the end that's what happened," he said.

Mayor Jim Schwantz said with Degorksi and Juan Luna both imprisoned for life, his village can finally move forward. Though Palatine might have some closure, the families and loved ones of the seven victims should never be forgotten, Schwantz said.

"Hopefully, they can have some peace," he said.

One sign of moving forward came Monday when the village council approved plans for a Chase Bank to be built at the crime site, which has been vacant since the Brown's building was torn down.

Former Mayor Rita Mullins said she always had faith in police. She's also thankful for closure.

"It affected everyone that's ever lived in Palatine, everyone who has worked in Palatine, everyone who ever knew anyone in Palatine," she said. It has affected everyone and I just hope it can be put to rest now. Thank God it's over."

Mullins and Schwantz said they're aware of how people still remember the nonstop news coverage the day of the murders, with helicopters hovering above the crime scene. Many who live nearby might always associate Palatine with the Brown's Chicken & Pasta murders, but that never inhibited Palatine's residents, both Mullins and Schwantz said.

"I don't think that memory's ever going to be erased," Schwantz added.

Bratcher complimented the police investigators who worked the case, and had a simple message for them: "Good work. Well done."