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Podcast 'Reply All' Revisits The Palatine Brown's Chicken Massacre

By Sophie Lucido Johnson in News on May 12, 2016 4:19PM

If you haven't heard of the Palatine Brown's Chicken massacre, chances are you grew up in the Internet age. Reply All, a podcast about the internet, is counting on that as it airs its first of a three-part story about Paul Modrowski, a prisoner implicated in the 1993 mass murder case. Episode #64, "On the Inside," comes from show producer Sruthi Pinnamaneni, who has been working on a report about Modrowski for more than a year.

Pinnamaneni grew interested in Modrowski after she found his years-running blog while working on an unrelated story. If it sounds strange that a person in a maximum-security prison could actively maintain a blog, it is: Prisoners don't have access to the internet, so Modrowski wrote his blog posts by hand and mailed them to his mother, who posted them online. That's enough to pique the interest of an internet-loving listening community, but the truly salacious detail here comes in the last five minutes of the episode: Modrowski had been implicated in one of the highest profile, CSI-evoking murder sagas in the history of Illinois.

The Palatine Brown's Chicken massacre rocked the state in 1993. The mass murder, which took place after closing time at a Brown's Chicken restaurant in Palatine, resulted in the killing of seven workers, whose bodies were subsequently placed in freezers and refrigeration units at the restaurant. All the victims were shot; one woman, Lynn Ehlenfeldt, had also had her throat slit, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune. It took the police almost nine years to solve the case; the trial wasn't finished until 2009. Juan Luna and James Degorski were both found guilty of all seven counts of murder, and were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Modrowski was almost certainly nowhere near the scene of that crime—it's not the one he was charged with. Ten days after the Brown's Chicken massacre, a body was found along the railroad tracks in Barrington; its head and arms had been removed. Because of the grisly nature of both murders, it was widely assumed in 1995 that Modrowski had been involved with both. He was never charged with the Brown's Chicken slayings, but the case has followed him around.

Modrowski vehemently denies involvement in any murder; he pled not guilty at his trial, accusing his friend Robert Faraci of the crime. (Faraci was found not guilty.) A description written by his mother at the top of his blog reads:

Paul was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole at age 18 on an "accountability" theory for supposedly lending his car to a friend who supposedly murdered a man—although the friend was acquitted by a different jury.

Paul has been in maximum security prison for over 20 years. Paul has autism.
Paul writes this blog himself! Thank you for reading!

Modrowski's autism has been a major topic of discussion in Pinnamaneni's story. In interviews, Modrowski asks Pinnamaneni if he seems autistic to her. She tells him that when they began speaking he had come off as a little monotone; he replies, "I come across as very stoic, indifferent, and cold to strangers." This self-characterization matches the description in the Chicago Tribune article about his trial published in 1995: "Modrowski was characterized by the prosecution as cold and unfeeling, and he showed little emotion during the monthlong trial and during most of his sentencing hearing."

Reply All will post its second installment of Modrowski's story next week. You can stream the first installment below.