Monday, May 20, 2002


As DME readers are well aware, chicken is often the culinary choice of the condemned. Now a chicken from 1993 might send two to death row. Oh, the irony....

Chicken Bone Provides Key Evidence

PALATINE, Ill. (AP) - In 1993, DNA testing wasn't advanced enough to glean any evidence from a half-eaten piece of chicken found at the site of a killing spree at a restaurant.

But police froze the chicken bone anyway — and now their foresight is being applauded.

When a witness finally came forward this spring, she identified Juan Luna, 28, and her former boyfriend, James Degorski, 29, as the alleged killers. Authorities say the chicken bone was then retrieved and submitted to improved DNA testing.

The tests matched saliva on the bone to a profile of Luna, providing crucial evidence.

Police said both men confessed when they were arrested Thursday. They have been charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, and prosecutors may seek the death penalty.

Luna and Degorski entered the restaurant just before closing time and Luna ate part of a chicken dinner before the two men killed everyone in the building and robbed the safe of nearly $2,000, prosecutors said. Without fingerprints or the .38-caliber hand gun that was used in the slayings, prosecutors said the saliva provided important DNA evidence.

But in 1993, a discarded chicken bone was hardly considered evidence.

"It shows they were pretty forward-thinking, whoever decided to save it," said David Coffman, supervisor of Florida's DNA database. "Ten or even seven years ago, we would never have thought to test a piece of food that was half-eaten. We wouldn't have had the technology to get a result."

Another reason to clean your plate.