After all these years, Jane Homeyer isn’t exactly sure how the thought occurred to her in the moment.
Hours after the Brown’s Chicken Massacre that claimed the lives of seven fast food employees on January 8, 1993, Homeyer, a forensic investigator, plucked a few chicken bones from the garbage at the crime scene. Maybe the killer or killers left them behind, she thought.
At the time, the science of DNA identification hadn’t advanced far enough to match genetic material left in saliva on the chicken to a suspect. But one day, perhaps, the bones would matter, thought Homeyer. So they were kept in a freezer.
In 2002, and with DNA identification finally becoming a key tool used by law enforcement, DNA material from the bones was matched to Juan Luna – one of the two men who were charged and later convicted of the crime.
“It wasn’t something that would be a normal course of business,” said Homeyer during a phone chat Monday, on the 25th anniversary of the gruesome crime that occurred in northwest suburban Palatine.
“To think that ‘Hey, 10 years from now we’re going to get DNA from this’ … maybe there was a little divine intervention to plant that thought in my head,” Homeyer said.
“Because I think very easily I could have not had that thought, too. But I’m very grateful that I did and that it helped bring solace to the victims and their families,” said Homeyer, who went on to work for several years as the chief of the forensic science training unit at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.
“I do remember that some of the media reports were very critical of me doing that, kind of piling on with general statements about the lab not knowing what we were doing,” recalled Homeyer, attributing the negative coverage to frustration the crime hadn’t been solved and a lack of appreciation for the potential of DNA technology.
Homeyer now works in the intelligence community as an assistant director at the office of the Director of National Intelligence, a position she can’t say too much about without official approval.
She said a prayer for the victims and their families Monday, as she often finds herself doing when she’s reminded of the crime — a regular occurrence.
“I do eat fried chicken,” she said, upon being asked. “But I don’t eat at Brown’s. I can’t do it. I go to Kentucky Fried. It just doesn’t feel right. It’s like when you go to a grave yard and you don’t walk across people’s graves. It’s a sign of respect.”