'We finally got the job done for them': Former Palatine chief traces the trail to Brown's killers
John Koziol had been with the Palatine Police Department for eight years, rising from patrol officer to detective sergeant, on the morning the Brown's Chicken victims were discovered.
"We all got called in. We pretty much knew we were in for the long haul."
Koziol and his fellow officers covered all the fundamentals -- locked down the area, canvassed the neighborhood, brought in crime lab experts to process the scene and FBI agents to assist. They even looked for reasons the victims may have been targeted.
"We could not find one person to say a bad thing about any of those seven people," he said. "You can usually find an enemy of somebody. But not these people. They were all just good souls."
Experts from across the country later arrived, including noted forensic scientist Dr. Henry Lee, who recommended sending chicken found in the trash to a lab for DNA testing, Koziol said. It took a while -- DNA found on a partially eaten piece of chicken initially proved too small to test -- but it eventually became one of the first big breaks in the case when technological improvements allowed the DNA to be amplified.
"We finally had a profile," Koziol said of the DNA, which later was linked to Juan Luna, one of the convicted killers.
Another break came in 2002, a year after Koziol was promoted to Palatine's police chief. It was then that a woman contacted investigators, saying that a friend of hers had told her the killers confessed to her nearly a decade earlier.
Investigators paired that information with the DNA, leading them to Luna and James Degorski.
"It's not even really about vindication. It's about being able to tell those families we finally got the job done for them," Koziol said.
When Koziol looks back, he thinks especially of "those young boys," victims Rico Solis, 17, and Michael Castro, 16, both Palatine High School students who were working part time at the restaurant.
"They were just starting to have a life. It's just so senseless," Koziol said, "These two dark-hearted evil misfits do this for no reason other than to do something big, as they put it."