PALATINE, Ill. — Two men charged with killing seven people at a fried chicken restaurant in 1993 carefully planned the slayings, filling their pockets with bullets and wedging the back door shut so no one could escape, authorities said Saturday.
"They just did it to do something big," Palatine Police Chief John Koziel said. "They're people without a soul, and that's all we know about them."
Juan Luna, 28, and James Degorski, 29, have been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder and could face the death penalty if convicted.
"This was a horrible, brutal series of murders and one that we look at in the most serious way possible," Cook County State's Atty. Richard Devine said.
A judge on Saturday ordered the suspects held without bail. Prosecutors said Luna made a videotaped confession, and Degorski confessed orally before stopping a videotaped confession.
The pair were arrested Thursday, two months after Degorski's former girlfriend, a 26-year-old college student, went to police with information she had kept secret for nearly 10 years, fearful Degorski would kill her, said Linas Kelecius, an assistant state's attorney.
She "is the real hero in this case," he said.
The case has been filled with twists and turns over the years, with police and news media identifying possible breaks that never panned out. A large task force of investigators had dwindled to just a few officers in recent years.
Despite false leads in the past, Kelecius said police believed the woman because she knew a detail never made public: One of the victims had become ill before he died. She also allegedly knew a motive for the slayings: that Luna allegedly wanted to kill someone and Degorski volunteered to help, Kelecius said.
The pair were arrested after police taped a 45-minute telephone call the woman made to Degorski, the prosecutor said.
During the conversation, she asked Degorski what "cover story" he wanted her to use with police. Degorski never denied involvement and told her what she should say, Kelecius said.
At Saturday's bail hearing, the prosecutor revealed new details about the grisly slayings Jan. 8, 1993, at Brown's Chicken & Pasta restaurant in Palatine, a Chicago suburb.
He said the seven victims were shot and some were stabbed around closing time after they had been forced inside a cooler and walk-in refrigerator. The .38-caliber revolver used in the slayings belonged to Degorski but was allegedly used by both men, he said. The victims were shot a total of 24 times.
Luna, a former restaurant employee, also was linked to the crime by DNA evidence found on a dinner he allegedly ordered before the murders, Kelecius said.
Both suspects have arrest records.
"We hope this is a break we have been waiting for during the past nine years," Jennifer Shilling, now a Democratic state representative in Wisconsin, said Friday. Her parents, Richard and Lynn Wiese Ehlenfeldt, owned the chicken restaurant and were among the seven victims.