IMAGE: Juan Luna and James Degorski.
Undated photos show Juan Luna, left, and James Degorski.
updated 5/11/2007 4:35:14 AM ET 2007-05-11T08:35:14

A man was found guilty Thursday in the execution-style murders of seven people at a Chicago restaurant 14 years ago in what authorities say was a robbery that netted less than $2,000.

Jurors deliberated for about eight hours before delivering the verdict against Juan Luna on all seven counts of first-degree murder. The same jurors will reconvene on Monday for the death penalty phase of case.

"Today the agonizing wait is over," said Wisconsin state Rep. Jennifer Shilling, whose parents owned the Brown's Chicken and Pasta in Palatine and were among those killed. "We as family can finally exhale from this long and emotional nightmare."

Victims' families began sobbing in the minutes before the verdict was read and their crying intensified when it was finally announced in court.

Another man, Luna's high school friend James Degorski, has pleaded not guilty to the murders and will be tried separately.

Chicken dinner DNA
The evidence against Luna included DNA recovered from a chicken dinner the night of the slayings and a videotaped confession from the 33-year-old appliance installer.

Defense attorneys attacked the reliability of that evidence during the trial and again at closing arguments, saying the DNA might not be Luna's and that, even if it was, it doesn't prove he committed the crime.

Luna was 18 when prosecutors said he and Degorski walked into the restaurant on Jan. 8, 1993, at closing time and carried out the killings.

The bodies of the restaurant owners Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt and five employees were found in a walk-in cooler and freezer.

Luna was arrested nearly five years ago and is now a married father of a young son.

Jurors had grisly evidence to review, including horrific crime scene photos and chilling descriptions of how the victims were systematically executed.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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