- Fast food has an issue with everyday violence.
- Fast-food restaurants have also been the site of a number of high-profile homicides over the decades.
- In these cases, either fast-food employees or customers were targeted in a violent crime.
- The details of these crimes are highly disturbing.
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Fast food has a dark side.
It’s no secret that the industry has a problem with everyday violence. In November, McDonald’s workers in Chicago filed a lawsuit against the fast-food giant, alleging that it failed to protect its employees from “a daily risk of violence while at work.”
And that undercurrent of chaos and brutality has flared up over the years, resulting in a number of truly frightening and violent acts perpetuated against fast-food employees and customers. Not all of these crimes have been solved, but all of the incidents described are disturbing.
Here’s a look at a number of terrifying cases involving fast-food restaurants:
Four young Burger Chef employees vanished while closing up the restaurant for the night in 1978, and their murders remain unsolved
On the night of November 17, 1978, four young employees at the Burger Chef in Speedway, Indiana, began to prepare for closing time.
Around midnight, a coworker stopped by to help the night crew clean up. He found the place empty, the restaurant’s back door still open. The employee called the police, and a search for the missing workers was set in motion.
That search ended tragically two days later and 20 miles away, when hikers stumbled upon the bodies of all four employees in the woods, the Indianapolis Star reported.
Assistant manager Jayne Friedt, 20, had been stabbed to death. Ruth Ellen Shelton, 17, and Daniel Davis, 16, had been shot execution-style with a .38 calibre gun. 16-year-old Mark Flemmonds, the youngest victim, had been bludgeoned to death.
Indianapolis Monthly reported that police allowed the restaurant to reopen the day after the crews’ disappearance, despite initial worries that the group had been kidnapped. Crucial evidence may have been wiped away when Burger Chef employees cleaned up the restaurant.
The murders remain unsolved. In 2018, the local Fox affiliate reported that the community gathered to plant a quartet of red oak trees, one for each victim.
Police request that tipsters call 317-899-8510 or reach out through the Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-232-8477.
A parolee is said to have killed a Domino’s driver as part of a murderous plot against Colorado’s top prison official
Nathan Leon, 27, didn’t know he was driving into a trap when he set off to deliver a Domino’s order on March 17, 2013. A man had called in an order to a Sapp Brothers service centre in a remote stretch of Denver, the Denver Post reported. Leon, a married father of three who also held down a job at IBM, just happened to be the driver dispatched to deliver the food.
Police say that Leon was lured into a violent and convoluted revenge plot set in motion by a 28-year-old named Evan Ebel. The parolee had been released from prison halfway through his eight-year sentence thanks to a clerical error, according to ABC.
Leon never made it back to the Domino’s restaurant. The Denver Post reported that his car was found abandoned a mile away from the Sapp Brothers location. The missing driver’s phone was subsequently discovered in a ditch in Golden, Colorado.
Police say that Ebel abducted Leon from the delivery location, transporting him away from the scene in the trunk of his car. The Denver Post reported that, at some point, Ebel forced his victim to record an incoherent statement condemning the Colorado prison system. According to police, Ebel subsequently shot and killed Leon, leaving his body to be discovered in Golden that evening.
The bloodshed continued two days later, when Ebel arrived at the Monument, Colorado, home of Colorado Department of Corrections chief Tom Clements. When Clements answered the door, Ebel fatally shot him and fled the state, the Denver Post reported.
Ebel was shot and killed two days later, after a car chase and fire fight with law enforcement officers in Texas. CBS reported that a Domino’s delivery shirt and visor were discovered in Ebel’s car. Police say they believe Ebel killed Leon in order to obtain his uniform as a disguise, as part of a plot to ambush Clements.
Law enforcement has since investigated the possibility that the murders of Leon and Clements were part of a wider conspiracy orchestrated by the hierarchy of the 211 Crew, a white-supremacist prison gang that originated in Colorado, the Denver Post reported.
A newlywed Denny’s manager was shot dead despite reportedly complying with robbers’ demands
Cyrus Salehi, the Denny’s employee working the graveyard shift at a Los Angeles area restaurant on February 3, 1996, had just achieved a number of goals.
The 38-year-old had recently acquired partial ownership of the Reseda location, The Los Angeles Times reported. Salehi had also married his girlfriend of two years only 11 months prior.
But in the pre-dawn hours of that winter morning, Salehi’s life would be cut short over a few hundred dollars.
Police say that Ruben Lopez, then 20, entered the diner brandishing a gun, The Los Angeles Times reported. Salehi reportedly complied with his demands, handing over around $US400 from the cash register. Lopez is said to have still fatally shot the Denny’s manager in the chest.
The Los Angeles Times reported that both Lopez and his getaway driver Samuel Martinez, then 19, were convicted of Salehi’s murder and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Police are still baffled by the unsolved murder of a Pizza Hut driver, whose death didn’t appear to be motivated by robbery
It started out as a regular Saturday night shift at the Wichita Pizza Hut where Hasan Rahman, 26, worked as a delivery driver. On the evening of November 25, 2017, the Bangladeshi immigrant drove off to make two deliveries, the Wichita Eagle reported.
But when Rahman failed to return to the restaurant, things took a sinister turn. Pizza Hut coworkers set out into the town to look for their missing colleague, but to no avail. The following day, this confusion morphed into grief when the Wichita State University engineering student’s body was discovered in the trunk of his car.
Rahman’s murder remains unsolved today, although Wichita Police had indicated that they do not believe the killing to have been the result of a simple robbery.
The Wichita Eagle reported that investigators believe that Rahman’s murder was unrelated to his last series of deliveries, saying that it may have been connected to a double homicide that occurred around the time of his disappearance. Not too far from where Rahman’s car was found, Huong Pham, 62, and her son Cody Ha, 23, were shot to death in their home on the night of November 25.
Pizza Hut offered up a $US10,000 reward for tipsters with information about Rahman’s murder, International Business Times reported. Anyone with information can contact Wichita police at 316-268-4407 or Crime Stoppers at 316-267-211.
A serial killer preyed on the employees of fast-food chains like Captain D’s, McDonald’s, and Baskin-Robbins
On February 15, 1997, dishwasher and convicted robber Paul Dennis Reid Jr. reportedly hurled a plate at a fellow employee in the kitchen of a Nashville-area Shoney’s. The restaurant’s manager promptly fired the 39-year-old aspiring country singer.
The following day, investigators said, Reid embarked on a killing spree that targeted fast-food joints and left at least seven people dead.
He started close to home, making his way into a Captain D’s before the restaurant opened up for the day. Shoney’s owned the seafood restaurant chain at the time, and that particular location was near Reid’s former place of work.
Once inside the Captain D’s, Reid was said to have robbed the restaurant and shot manager Steve Hampton, 25, and employee Sarah Jackson, 16, at point-blank range in the refrigerator, according to Nashville Public Radio.
About a month later, on March 23, 1997, Reid is said to have ambushed four McDonald’s employees wrapping up a shift in the chain’s Hermitage, Tennessee, location, according to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s briefing on the murders.
After manager Ronald Santiago, 27, opened up the restaurant’s safe, Reid shot him, 17-year-old Andrea Brown, and 23-year-old Robert Sewell execution-style, the briefing said. Reid also brutally stabbed a fourth victim after his gun malfunctioned. That employee survived the attack.
The final murders connected to Reid began in a Baskin-Robbins in Clarksville, Tennessee, on April 23, 1997. According to the Tennessee Supreme Court’s summary of the case,Reid abducted two employees, 21-year-old Angela Holmes and 16-year-old Michelle Mace, from the ice cream parlor and later murdered them both in Dunbar Cave State Park.
Strangely enough, the person who ultimately brought an end to the killings was Reid’s former manager at Shoney’s.
The Tennessean reported that on June 25, 1997, the manager opened the door to find the dishwasher he’d fired four months earlier standing there. Reid demanded his job at Shoney’s back. Then, he reportedly pulled out a gun and attempted to kidnap his ex-boss.
Reid was sentenced to death seven times over, sparking a controversy over his mental competence. The so-called “Fast Food Killer” was never executed for his crimes; he died of natural causes in 2013.
A Domino’s driver headed out to deliver pizzas on the Fourth of July in 1982 and was never seen again
The caller asked for three large Domino’s pizzas. And he had another, more unusual request: that the order be delivered by the female employee who drove the “orange Volkswagen.” The man claimed that she’d delivered his pizzas in the past, according to a 2007 report from the the Statesman Journal.
But that employee wasn’t on duty on the night of July 4, 1982, at the Domino’s in Salem, Oregon. So 18-year-old Sherry Eyerly went instead, driving off into the summer night around 9:40 p.m.
The address that she was given didn’t exist. According to a 1982report from The Statesman Journal, witnesses discovered her delivery car in an isolated spot near the Willamette River, where a group of children had just been setting off fireworks. The engine was still running and the headlights were on. A stepped-on stack of pizzas and a cap believed to be a part of Eyerly’s uniform were found discarded nearby.
But in 2007, 25 years after the disappearance, police obtained a guilty plea in Eyerly’s case. According to Marion County’s cold case squad, serial killer William Scott Smith confessed to kidnapping and killing Eyerly. Oregon Live reported that Smith had previously been sentenced to life for the 1984 kidnapping and killing of 21-year-old Circle K clerk Rebecca Ann Darling and 18-year-old Willamette University student Katherine Iona Redmond. Smith would also later confess to the 1981 murder of 22-year-old Terri Monroe.
Ashland Tidings reported that Smith confessed to targeting a different Domino’s employee – the woman who owned a Volkswagen – with the phony order. According to the Statesman Journal, Smith had an an accomplice named Roger Noseff, who died in February 2003. Smith told police he strangled Eyerly and dumped her body into the Little Pudding River.
According to the Statesman Journal, as part of his plea deal, Smith was sentenced to an additional life sentence for the murder of Eyerly in 2007.
A serial strangler reportedly targeted his Taco Bell coworkers during his murder spree
Sylvia Sumpter knew something was wrong when she discovered her 20-year-old daughter Shawna Hawk wasn’t at work on February 19, 1993.
In “Henry Louis Wallace: A Calamity Waiting to Happen,” Joseph Geringer wrote that Hawk was regarded as a dependable part-time employee at her local Taco Bell in Charlotte, North Carolina. She filled in at the fast-food restaurant to pay her way through Piedmont Central Community College.
When she failed to appear for dinner on that February evening, Sumpter called into her daughter’s employer, assuming Hawk had been asked to tackle a last-minute shift. But none of her Taco Bell coworkers knew where she was.
None of her coworkers, that is, except for one: the man who was later convicted of murdering Hawk and 10 other women, Hawk’s one-time Taco Bell manager and friend Henry Louis Wallace. As Sumpter called loved ones for help, she didn’t realise that her daughter lay dead in the home’s downstairs bathroom. She was the then-28-year-old convicted killer’s third known victim, Geringer wrote.
Wallace, dubbed in the press as “the Taco Bell Strangler,” would go on to prey upon at least eight more women before his arrest in 1994. His victims included a number of women he befriended while working in the fast-food industry, including Taco Bell employee Audrey Spain and frequent restaurant patron Michelle Stinson, Geringer writes. Wallace also got to know victims Caroline Love and Betty Baucom through a girlfriend who worked at a local Bojangles, the Charlotte News & Observer reported.
The murder spree ignited backlash against the Charlotte Police Department, with a case study from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte noting that the department was “accused of being less diligent about investigating the murders because the victims were African American and generally lived and worked in working class areas of the city.”
After his 1994 arrest, Wallace was convicted and received nine death sentences, according to the Los Angeles Times. He remains on death row to this day.
Sumpter went on to found the Mothers of Murdered Offsping to honour her daughter. The advocacy group seeks to “support families through the cycle of grief and devastation” that comes in the wake of a loved one’s murder.
Five Wendy’s employees died after being shot execution-style during a robbery in Queens
Around midnight, the manager’s voice came on over the intercom at the Wendy’s on Main Street in Flushing, Queens. All employees on duty were required to attend a meeting in the restaurant’s back office, held just before closing on the night of May 24, 2000, the New York Times reported.
The crew – Ramon Nazario, 44, Ali Ibadat, 40, Anita Smith, 23, and Jeremy Mele, 19, along with two other workers – complied with the order. But as they filed into 27-year-old manager Jean Auguste’s office, they found that he wasn’t alone.
Also there were Craig Godineaux, 30, and John Taylor, 36, according to police. Taylor was a former restaurant employee who left his job “under suspicion” of theft, the Associated Press reported. Now he was back, armed with a pistol, to rob the restaurant, according to the Queens Chronicle.
The robbers proceeded to bind and gag the seven Wendy’s employees with duct tape, the New York Post reported. The victims were forced into the restaurant’s refrigerator, where Taylor and Godineaux shot each of them execution-style, according to a taped confession.
Auguste, Nazario, Ibadat, Smith, and Mele were killed. The two other workers survived. One of those badly injured employees, who the New York Times reported had just begun working at the Wendy’s two weeks before the massacre, managed to free themselves, pull the other survivor out of the fridge, and call the police.
Taylor and Godineaux’s haul from the robbery was $US2,400, according to the New York Times. In the subsequent trial, the two were found guilty of murder. Taylor was sentenced to death and Godineaux, who has mental disabilities, was sentenced to life in prison. Taylor’s sentence was commuted to life in prison back in 2007, according to the New York Times.
Months after the massacre, family and friends of the victims gathered together at the Queens Botanical Gardens to plant a cherry tree in honour of their loved ones, the New York Post reported.
A man murdered two former coworkers during an early morning robbery at Chilli’s
William Wood was no stranger at the Chilli’s in Dewitt, New York.
But in the early morning of September 15, 2018, he didn’t enter the restaurant to report for a shift. Wood had returned to rob his former employer, police said.
Once inside, police say, Wood held four of his one-time colleagues at gunpoint, ordering them to lie on the floor, according to Syracuse.com. Then he forced manager and father of two Stephen Gudknecht, 37, to hand over $US875 from a safe, according to Syracuse.com.
Police say Wood then shot Gudknecht and Chilli’s employee Kristopher Hicks, 29, in the head. Wood is also said to have aimed his gun at a female employee, but ended up fleeing after the weapon jammed. A male employee was also able to escape the restaurant, as well.
The female employee called 911 and held Gudknecht’s hands as he lay dying, Syracuse.com reported. Paramedics transported Hicks to a local hospital, where he died.
Wood pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison without parole. Spectrum News reported in September 2018 that four additional people were arrested in connection with the case, with charges ranging from driving Wood’s getaway car to buying his weapon.
As of April 2019, the United States Justice Department is pursuing the death penalty against Wood, Syracuse.com reported.
A man gunned down 21 people in a California McDonald’s after reportedly telling his wife he was going “hunting for humans”
James Huberty opened fire in a crowded San Ysidro, California, McDonald’s on July 18, 1984, killing 21 employees and diners. At the time, it was the “worst single-day mass murder by a lone gunman” in the history of the US, according to the Associated Press.
A 1984 article from the Washington Post reported, citing police sources, that the gunman told his wife that he was “going hunting humans” before he left the house to commit the mass murder.
Like many mass shooters, Huberty had a history of violence. The Washington Post reported that the 41-year-old beat his wife. According to Macleans, he also shot the family dog in the head after the German Shepherd scratched his landlord’s car.
In the years running up to the 1984 mass murder, Huberty obsessively collected guns and ammunition, spewed paranoia about the US government and the Cold War, and expressed a strong interest in survivalism. The Associated Press reported that he was fired from his job as a security guard a week before the shooting.
Huberty’s attack lasted for just over an hour and twenty minutes, ending when a police sniper shot and killed the gunman.
In the wake of the shooting, the McDonald’s was torn down and converted into a memorial for the victims.
An ex-Domino’s manager reportedly led a murderous rampage against his former employer in 1985
On the night of December 9, 1985, Mitchell Sims, 25, and Ruby Padgett, 20, robbed a Domino’s in Glendale, California.
The restaurant was empty aside from two employees, but the pizzeria’s manager warned the couple that their robbery would soon be interrupted. Domino’s driver John Harrigan, 21, was out delivering a pizza to a nearby motel room. He was due back soon.
Smiling, Sims pulled off his sweater. He was wearing Harrigan’s name badge and Domino’s-issued t-shirt, according to a case summary filed with the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit.
The pizzeria employees in Glendale didn’t realise that they were in the midst of a violent multi-state crime spree targeting Domino’s employees. Sims himself had previously worked at a Domino’s in West Columbia, South Carolina, even rising to a managerial role. But a squabble over a bonus prompted him to quit the business, according to the Post and Courier.
In November 1985, Sims took on a delivery gig at the Domino’s in nearby Hanahan. In the early morning of December 4, Domino’s assistant manager Gary Melke, 24, staggered into the lobby of the Hanahan Police Department.
He told police that he and his coworker Chris Zerr, also 24, had been attacked and shot by their new coworker, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Police were dispatched to the Domino’s, where they found Zerr dead. Melke died in a local hospital later that night. Along with his girlfriend Padgett, Sims fled South Carolina for California.
But during the Glendale hold-up, an off-duty Domino’s worker and his wife happened to visit the restaurant, the Los Angeles Times reported. The pizzeria manager pretended not to know them, raising suspicion. The worker and his wife called the police, who arrived to find the two employees alive, but in danger of strangling. Sims and Padgett had left them tied to nooses in the restaurant’s frozen-food locker, according to a case summary filed with the US Court of Appeals Ninth Circuit.
Law enforcement then raided the motel room that Harrigan had been called to, where they found the driver’s body in an overflowing bathtub. Sims and Padgett had bound and gagged Harrigan, then submerged him in the water until he either drowned or asphyxiated.
Sims is now on death row, while Padgett is serving life without parole.
A stolen currency bag led to a tragic early morning discovery in a Taco Bell walk-in freezer
On the morning of January 26, 1991, police in Irving, Texas, were dispatched to check on the six Taco Bell restaurants in the area.
At 5 a.m. that day, UPI reported, officers pulling over two teens had made a disturbing find: a Taco Bell take-out bag brimming with $US1,390. That morning, law enforcement found one particular restaurant dark and locked. According to UPI, police slipped in through the drive-thru window, only to make a horrible discovery in the back of the restaurant.
The bodies of Theresa Fraga, 16; Frank Fraga, 23; Michael Phelan, 28; and Son Trang Nguyen, 35, had been hidden in the freezer. They had been shot to death. The Fragas were cousins, and Theresa Fraga was the mother of a young child. She was also pregnant at the time of her death.
The Associated Press reported that Taco Bell employee Jerome Green, then 17, and Jessy Carlos San Miguel, then 19, were the two young men pulled over that morning. The pair was subsequently charged with the murders. At the time, San Miguel was out on bail for a series of burglaries.
According to the Clark County Prosecutor, San Miguel and Green forced their way into the restaurant when an employee went out to throw trash into the dumpster. Phelan, the assistant manager, was forced to hand over the money.
At some point, Nguyen pulled up outside in his car to pick up his friends, the Fragas. He was reportedly accosted outside and forced into the restaurant’s freezer.
The Clark County Prosecutor holds that San Miguel and Green first left with the money, only for San Miguel to return to the freezer, ask the hostages to “give him a good reason” to not kill them all, and proceed to shoot the four execution-style.
According to UPI, San Miguel was executed via lethal injection in 2000. Green became eligible for parole in 2004. The Texas Tribune’s inmate directory estimates that Green’s release date won’t be until 2043, when he is 70.
Three Pizza Hut workers were bludgeoned and shot to death in a robbery
The Pizza Hut in Mount Pleasant, Texas, closed around 11 p.m. on May 10, 1982. After that, something horrible happened inside.
UPI reported that the relatives of employee Shirley Thompson, 24, became concerned when she never arrived back home from her shift. They notified law enforcement after finding the pizzeria unlocked and the cash register emptied.
When police arrived, they discovered Thompson, assistant manager George Landrum, and employee Howard McClaflin, 25, murdered in the back of the restaurant.
According to The Oklahoman, Thompson had been stabbed and beaten with a hammer, Landrum had been shot and beaten with a hammer, and McClaflin had been shot in the head.
The Dallas Morning News reported that investigators closed in on then 28-year-old Calvin Padgett, his 15-year-old brother Max Daughtry, their 13-year-old cousin, and another 12-year-old cousin. Daughtry was tried as an adult and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
After confessing, Padgett asserted his innocence to the Dallas Morning News in 1986, saying that he was attempting to protect Daughtry. In January 1987, however, Padgett once again confessed to killing Landrum and Thompson with Daughtry and their two cousins. Padgett was sentenced to life.
In 1991, firefighters responding to a blaze at an Austin yogurt shop were horrified to discover the bodies of four young girls
On the night of December 6, 1991, firefighters responded to a fire at the I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt! shop in Austin, Texas.
The bodies of four young girls lay in the back of the store. Police identified them as 17-year-old employees Jennifer Harbison and Eliza Thomas, 13-year-old Amy Ayers, and Harbison’s 15-year-old sister Sarah. They had been bound, gagged, and shot in the head.
The girls had been set to have a sleepover after closing up the yogurt shop.
Four men – Robert Springsteen, 24, Michael Scott, 25, Maurice Pierce, 24, and Forrest Wellborn, 23 – were arrested in connection to the murders. Springsteen and Scott confessed to the crime, but allegations about forced confessions swirled around the case, the Austin Chronicle reported.
Authorities dropped the charges against Wellborn and Pierce, while Scott and Springsteen both stood trial and were convicted.
In 2009, both men were freed after their convictions were overturned due to lack of evidence in the case, the New York Times reported. The only DNA evidence found at the crime scene belonged to an unknown male.
Beverly Lowry’s book “Who Killed These Girls?” – an encyclopedic account of the case – explains that between the fire and firefighters’ efforts to put out the blaze, crucial evidence was likely destroyed.
In her book, Lowry poses one theory that the culprits may have been the two as-of-now-unidentified men who witnesses placed in the store just prior to closing time.
But the murder of the four teenage girls remains unsolved to this day.
Tipsters with information on the murders can call in at 512-472-TIPS or 800-893-TIPS.
An unemployed man with a history of misogynistic threats shot and killed 23 people after driving his truck through the window of a Luby’s Cafeteria
The front window of the Luby’s Cafeteria shattered against the force of the Ford Ranger pickup. But the terror wasn’t over for diners and employees at the restaurant, on October 16, 1991.
The driver, unemployed former merchant mariner George Hennard, stepped out of the truck and began firing a pistol.
Hennard began stalking around the store gunning down victims in the restaurant, even dragging cowering customers out from underneath tables, according to Reporting Texas.
Witnesses said that the gunman seemed to favour shooting women over men. Hennard had a history of making misogynistic threats, often calling women “vipers” and stalking neighbours, the New York Times reported. Misogyny has been widely reported to be a potential indicator of a person’s capacity for mass murder.
The murderous rampage continued for 12 minutes, according to the New York Times. Hennard was shot several times by responding police, and committed suicide when he was running low on bullets.
At the time, the Luby’s massacre was the worst mass shooting by a single gunman in the history of United States, according to USA Today.
A McDonald’s employee is said to have plotted to rob his employer, with fatal consequences
On the night of May 7, 1992, McDonald’s employee Derek Wood slipped into the basement of the franchise in Sydney River, Nova Scotia. According to the book “Murder at McDonald’s,” Wood had been plotting to rob the restaurant’s safe with a group of friends for some time.
The 18-year-old used his knapsack to prop the basement door open ever so slightly. After the restaurant closed, Wood, Freeman MacNeil, 23, and Darren Muise, 18, crept in through the ajar door.
The three are then said to have fatally beaten, shot, and stabbed McDonald’s manager Donna Warren, 22, and employee Neil Burroughs, 29. Another employee, Arlene MacNeil, 20 (no relation), was also brutally attacked.
According to the Canadian Encyclopaedia, the murderers only managed to net $US2,017 from the robbery. As they were leaving, overnight employee Jimmy Fagan, 27, arrived. The robbers are said to have fatally shot him before fleeing.
According to the Canadian Encyclopaedia, Wood, Freeman MacNeil, and Muise were quickly arrested, brought to trial, and convicted. Wood was sentenced to life without chance of parole for 25 years in connection with the murders of Warren and Burroughs and the attempted killing of Arlene MacNeil. His request for parole was denied.
Muise pleaded guilty to the murder of Burroughs and granted a life sentence with no parole for 20 years. According to CBC, he was released from prison in 2012.
Freeman MacNeil was also given a life sentence with no parole for 25 years in connection with the murders of Burroughs and Fagan. The Chronicle Herald reported that MacNeil has since been granted un-escorted releases from prison.
Arlene MacNeil survived the attack, which left her paralysed and suffering from permanent brain damage, according to the Cape Breton Post. She died in 2018 at the age of 46.
The owners and employees of a Brown’s Chicken restaurant were gunned down in the eatery’s walk-in fridge in 1993
One of the robbers had chewed on a piece of chicken while holding up the Brown’s Chicken & Pasta in Palatine, Illinois, on January 8, 1993. They then proceeded to force the seven people working in the eatery into a walk-in cooler and freezer at gunpoint, police said.
Hours later, that’s where police found the bodies of restaurant owners 50-year-old Richard and 49-year-old Lynn Ehlenfeldt, and workers Guadalupe Maldonado, 46, Michael Castro, 16, Rico Solis, 17, Thomas Mennes, 32, and Marcus Nellse, 31, shot to death. There were no survivors, and the robbers made off with less than $US2,000, the Inquirer reported.
But a forensic investigator processing the mass killing found and preserved the chicken bones, saving a clue that would help crack the case years later, according to CBS.
In March 2002, the case was still unsolved. Then a woman told police that her ex-boyfriend had bragged about the killings, the Daily Herald reported. She also implicated former Brown’s employee Juan Luna, whose DNA matched the saliva found on the chicken bones and a latent print on a napkin.
At his subsequent 2007 trial, Luna was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. James Degorski was also convicted and sentenced to life in prison two years later. The building that once housed the restaurant was torn down in 2001, according to the New York Times.
The Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported that Luna’s defence asserted that the DNA evidence was unreliable. A 2013 ruling in the Illinois Appellate Court said that Luna’s counsel argued that the latent prints were improperly matched and that the amount of DNA recovered from the chicken was so small that “obtaining a profile from such low amounts of DNA is not generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.”
The court ruled to affirm Luna’s conviction, however. Both men remain imprisoned.
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