From the IPSN Archives: Spring 1996. After
nearly five years, the murders of seven service employees at a Browns Chicken
& Pasta Restaurant in Palatine, Illinois in 1993 remains unsolved. Much
has changed since the following article appeared in our Spring 1996 issue.
Cook County has a new State's Attorney. The independent panel comprised
of representatives from law enforcement, the Better Government Association,
and the legal profession is about to submit its findings - which is expected
to sharply criticize the leadership of the multi-jurisdictional task force,
and call for an area-wide major crimes response team. One thing has not
changed. This case is far from being solved and in this story we discuss
the history of events, the political fallout of this horrific crime, and
the necessity to adopt Metropolitan Policing as a viable alternative strategy
to the confused and chaotic system of suburban law enforcement currently
in place in Northeast Illinois.
The continuous echoes of Palatine still reverberate in the collective memory after just three but unforgettable years. The execution style murders of seven employees of the Brown's Fried Chicken restaurant on suburban Northwest Highway is no closer to being solved today, than it was three years ago. The system of law enforcement in metropolitan Chicago has failed us and it needs radical improvement to successfully combat the criminal elements as we approach the millennium.
It is easy to point the finger and assess blame for the inability up to this point - of law
enforcement to identify. arrest, and prosecute whoever was responsible for these barbarous murders. It is human nature to second guess and Monday morning quarterback. But the issues go well beyond laying fault on the Palatine Chief of Police, the officers summoned to the scene that night and those that worked the case thereafter. A system is at fault -an archaic method of law enforcement built on politics, ego, turf control and patronage.
Enshrouded in their own seats of power and smoky mirrors the major policing agencies and Cook County State's Attorney O'Malley have circled the wagons around their roles in the investigation and the politically adept and properly astute Jerry Bratcher, the Palatine Police Chief and Task Force he has presided over and views almost ceremoniously as his own. The entrenched law enforcement hierarchy has launched a well-coordinated media campaign against the two civilian watch-dog agencies the Better Government Association and the Chicago Crime Commission for conducting an independent citizen's inquiry by garnering the voluntary skills of ten high-profile professionals who have agreed to lend their talents and knowledge to take a much needed look and review the facts of the case.
The Jack O'Malleys, Michael Sheahans, Jerry Bratchers, and other high officials both elected and appointed who are close to the investigation have engaged the BGA and the Crime Commission in a war of words - a major press relations battle fought in the news media because it is in their best interest to safeguard their lofty positions within the political status quo. There are reputations to protect, ambitions to be fulfilled, elections to be won, and most of all the conservation of power that go hand in hand with that position.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Cook County State's Attorney, the Illinois State Police, the Cook County Sheriff, the Chicago Police Department, and a peripheral player - Lake County Undersheriff Gary DelRe, along with a free-lancing ex-cop-turned newspaper columnist named Larry Schreiner, have taken to task the creation of this blue-ribbon citizen's panel for exercising its constitutional right and dor daring to question and review a top-heavy, bloated, and outmoded method of law enforcement in suburban Cook County that should have been reorganized years ago in favor of a concept known as Metropolitan Policing.
Instead of over 135 small, geographically limited and politically autonomous police departments in Cook County, a centralized agency patterned along the lines of Dade County, Florida, or Las Vegas Metro would eliminate the kind of turf disputes, and factionalism that has to cloud the investigation of these vicious murders of seven people. A review of the history of the Palatine case and the actions of the ad hoc Task force as it was assembled offers the most convincing argument for the centralization of these small police departments.
The lifeless remains of seven human beings were carted through the green door of a small family owned franchise restaurant in the early morning hours of January 9, 1993 - after the store had shut down for the night and long after a concerned parent had telephoned the Palatine Police because their son had not returned home from his job. Among the seven murder victims who were found inside two walk-in coolers in the kitchen area of the back of the building, were the owners, Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt. They had bought their slice of the American dream just seven months earlier after Richard lost an executive job with Group W Cable as a result of corporate restructuring. Unbeknownst to them they were about to experience the nightmare of American life - a brand of criminal violence that seems to permeate every major city in the U.S.
Palatine is a small middle-class bedroom suburb miles apart from the mean streets of Chicago except that this once-tranquil municipality had just experienced the largest multiple murder in Illinois. This small town had grown from little more than a sleepy village inhabited by 2,000 souls after World War II into a municipality in excess of 39,000 according to the last census.
The Palatine Police Department with 92 employees, 69 of whom are sworn officers, bore the ultimate responsibility for protecting a community whose motto, "A Real Home Town," speaks to an idealized version of this country that no longer seems to exist.
Chief Jerry Bratcher, a behind the-scenes power amongst his fellow suburban chiefs has held his position since 1975. He has an image to maintain and he does it well. He works diligently to avoid media criticism of any kind, particularly in his handling of matters that could affect the unassailable image a Chief of Police must protect.
A Palatine patrol officer made the grisly discovery at about 2:30 in the morning, more than 5 ½ hours after closing time. It will undoubtedly remain one of the most terrible shocks he will experience in his lifetime. Palatine Police Lieutenant Bob Haas was on duty at the station when the fateful radio call that an ambulance to be dispatched to Smith Street and Northwest Highway. He alerted Deputy Chief.Jack McGregor, who placed a call to Chief Bratcher at his home to advise him of what had gone down. Bratcher arrived at the Brown's restaurant 10 minutes later.
Then, about an hour later Chief Bratcher called in a second agency, the Northern Illinois Police Crime Laboratory, for assistance when it became apparent that this was a crime of magnitude and in desperate need of highly technical resources.
Major Frank Braun of the Cook County Sheriff's Police was contacted around 3:30 a.m. according to Daily Herald press accounts. Scientists and technicians from the Crime Lab joined with arriving cook County Police investigators to begin the analysis of the restaurant and parking lot. Later, a multi-jurisdictional task force coordinated by Palatine Chief of Detectives John Koziol joined in the search for crime scene evidence, and by daylight, a phalanx of investigators from different departments, agencies, and units were swarming over the site.
Later, the chief investigator for the Cook County State's Attorney's office, Kevin Kavanaugh, arrived on the premises along with cook County Medical Examiner Dr. Robert Stein. Kavanaugh, working in tandem with Assistant State's Attorney Pat O'Brien (who served as legal advisor to the task force until he was replaced by Jim McKay of the Rolling Meadows office), were State's Attorney Jack O'Malley's point men.
State's Attorney O'Malley took an immediate and active role in the over-all investigation for the killers. Through Kavanaugh, advice and direction was provided to Bratcher and others during the course of the initial stages of the investigation.
Hours after the gruesome discovery, Task Force members searched the dumpsters and the parking lot was combed for clues. The interior and exterior of the restaurant was videotaped and food containers were analyzed. It seems evident that the crime scene was contaminated and any potential clues were inadvertently trampled underfoot by state's attorneys and officers from the various agencies converging on the scene. The investigation may well have been blown in these first critical hours. Three days later Bratcher made a request for the FBI's Investigative Support Unit responsible for tracking down serial killers. The specially trained unit flew in from Quantico, Virginia, but they were unable to develop a solid profile of a suspect because they theorized that there was more than one killer involved.
A stopped clock, a collection of bullet fragments, and a half-empty safe were the most tangible clues pointing to the robbery and homicide. But these clues alone did not reveal the identity of the individuals who killed the Ehlenfeldts, their cook Guadalupe Maldonado, Thomas Mennes, Marcus Nellsen, or the two teenage cashiers Michael Castro and rico Solis. "Our assumption is, it was a robbery that went bad," Chief Bratcher theorized on the one-year anniversary of the murders.
The entire investigation, which brought into play 125 investigators, police officers, and civilian computer personnel from Chicago, Cook County, the Illinois State Police, the FBI, and a dozen other suburban police departments, was shrouded in secrecy from the very beginning. Bratcher spoon-fed the disclosures to the media. "There are many things we wanted to keep quiet," he said. "They dug and of course that's their job to find information. But what are the ethics, what are the standards by which you are guided? We fight by the Marquis of Queensbury rules," he said in defense of his news blackout. "They fight and kick and gouge."
It wasn't until a year had passed that details - and a plausible scenario of what actually went down that night - began to be brought forth by investigative journalists. In their final report, the FBI concluded that very little planning occurred prior to the time the killers entered the tore, presumably to rob the cashier. The shootings may have occurred as an after-thought to robbery since the .38 caliber bullets extracted from the victims came from only one gun. In all, 21 shots were fired. The brass shell casings which might have shed light on where the ammunition was purchased, were missing. The shooter retrieved them prior to exiting the restaurant.
If robbery were the only motive, why is it that the thieves walked away with only a portion of the loot - about $1,200? Left untouched in the bottom compartment of the safe was $300 in small denominations. Investigators were puzzled as to why this money was left behind.
As they exited the restaurant the killers opened the wall panel box and flicked off the switches, cutting off all electrical power. The kitchen wall clock stopped cold at exactly 9:50 p.m. From the very beginning there was a dearth of suspects to question. Those responsible for this atrocity had covered their tracks well -either through accident or design. Efforts to link one Martin Blake, a disgruntled Elgin man who had recently been fired by the restaurant chain, collapsed. Blake later filed a civil suit charging the Village of Palatine with unlawful arrest and violation of his civil rights. A similar investigation into the whereabouts of 18-year-old Paul Madrowski and his cohort Robert Faraci who were both charged with the 1992 slaying and dismemberment of LaGrange resident Dean Fawcett failed to turn up anything that might remotely implicate them with the Palatine killings.
In the next 12 months investigators received more than 3,000 calls coming into a special hotline. They checked out more than 1,000 leads with negligible results. Two-hundred
fingerprints were collected at the Brown's restaurant were sent to police departments in Milwaukee, Indianapolis and Chicago for computerized matching, but none were found. The regional task force was eventually whittled down to seven investigators assisted by two civilians, and the number of in- coming phone calls dwindled to nothing. In desperation, a $120,000 cash reward was offered to the public for information that might lead to the killer.
Eight weeks after the massacre the search for additional evidence at the crime scene was called off. Nothing more could be found inside the establishment. Meanwhile, Chief Bratcher clung to the theory that it was a robbery gone bad.
From the very beginning the investigation into the Palatine killings was marred by internal disputes - turf issues between rival police agencies - and a lack of central authority and coordination. Chief Bratcher's inexperienced control of the Task Force led to complaints that the more seasoned homicide investigators were not being allowed to properly effectuate - follow-up on crucial leads that may shed light on a possible suspect.
"People have to check their egos at the door,. Detective Koziol said at one point. That's the nature of the job."
The most troubling aspect to the investigation goes well beyond ego massaging. There were persistent complaints of poor leadership and direction within the task force itself and worse, the controversy surrounding Lead 80 - the confession of jail house snitch Renaldo Avilez, who was found dead in his cell at the Cook County Department of Corrections in May 1993 while awaiting trial. His death was classified as a suicide by the Cook County medical examiner, but 22 abrasions found on the body and a head laceration suggest that he my with foul play. Avilez was a suspected gangbanger, drug dealer, and gun buyer who had supposedly ingested a fatal dose of asthma medicine that he had received from the correctional officers. Knowledgeable insiders maintain that it is virtually impossible for someone to kill themselves inside a D.O.C. jail cell, and Avilez death had more to do with ratting on his pals than ingesting a fatal prescription.
According to Avilez' statements to the task force, Chicago gang leader Jose Morales Cruz implicated himself in the Palatine murders. Cruz, a member of the P.R. Stones, a vicious Hispanic street gang, was arrested on armed robbery charges stemming from a holdup at a Skokie bakery and is now serving his time in a downstate federal penitentiary. Jose Cruz' parole hearing is scheduled for next year.
Two eyewitnesses placed Cruz's automobile in the restaurant parking lot the night of the murders. The vehicle bore a Wisconsin license plate, and it is known that Cruz's gang had ties in that particular state. The two witnesses would later change their stories prompting an angry response from Bratcher who dismissed the information as nothing.
Richard Zuley, a veteran Chicago homicide detective with an impressive investigative record was assigned to the Task Force out of Chicago. Zuley unveiled his theory linking Cruz and Sanchez to the murders during a briefing session with other team member' after taking note of a composite drawing it the Task Force offices that bore a striking re semblance to a recent photo of Miguel Sanchez. The drawing was prepared by sketch artist based on the descriptions of a wit ness who claimed to have observed the suspect at the door of the Brown's Fried Chicken store on the night in question.
Zuley termed the lead significant an felt that further follow-up was not only important, but he deemed it essential. However his theory evoked only boredom and sarcasm among Task Force members. The detective and two other s from the Illinois State Police and a northern suburb were branded trouble makers and ordered not to talk to the media When the Chicago homicide detective we suspected of possibly defying the media gag order, Bratcher removed him from the task force after only 2 l/2 weeks on the job. "Frank I fired that S.O.B. because he was leaking to the press!" Bratcher told Frank Portillo, when the Brown's Chicken president called for a face to face meeting between the task force members and the dismissed detectives in order to sort out the various leads and conflicting statements.
However, Chief Bratcher deftly stalled Portillo even after he had agreed to the request for a sit down meeting in early May of 1995.- Bratcher kept saying he was close to solving the case and he had enlisted other high-profile Chicago detectives to work the Task Force, Portillo said.
On August I, 1995, Frank Portillo telephoned Bratcher and was reassured that things were moving very quickly. The two Chicago detectives, Bratcher said, were top notch guys who would make Zuley look like a kindergartner when it boiled down to comparing levels of experience and competency.
"We're very close to solving it Frank," Bratcher reported. Portillo later found out through one of his contacts in Chicago that the top notch guy Bratcher had been bragging about was pulled off the case on or about July 15th or 16th - two weeks prior to the August 1st phone conversation. "Jerry lied to me," Portillo said, and still believes to this day. The meeting between Bratcher, the dismissed task force detectives, and Frank Portillo never took place and the Palatine Police chief stopped returning Portillo's phone calls thereafter.
In early December, Frank Portillo drafted a letter to Bratcher asking him to analyze the residue of cotton seed oil and flour found inside the restaurant. Portillo reasoned that it was highly probable that this material would have been inadvertently transferred into a getaway car by the killers. Brown's is the only major chicken food chain in the area that prepares its food with cotton seed oil.
The ingredient is commonly used by all of the Brown's short order cooks, and the filmy substance adheres to the walls and floors. Since it did not occur to the task force investigators to seek possible clues within the oily residue at the time, Portillo asked Bratcher to have the laboratory technicians check for the presence of this material in the impounded vehicle allegedly driven by the killers.
Thus far, Bratcher has not bothered to respond to Portillo with the results of the analysis, but on the third anniversary of the massacre the embattled Palatine chief called a press conference to release new details to the media Bratcher surmised that the killer must have stood between six feet and six feet six inches tall based on footprint left behind. The weapon was a .38 caliber or .357 caliber revolver and was the only one employed by the shooter.
Several witnesses claimed to have seen a light-colored Chevrolet Camaro in the vicinity which the task force confirmed. None of these revelations were earth shattering. They had been widely reported throughout the course of the investigation but the timing of the press conference, if one is prone to such speculation, suggests a possible ulterior motive. Why is the Task Force so eager to downplay the significance of Lead 80? Is it conceivable that Jose Morales Cruz is a protected federal witness who is more valuable to the government because of what he can tell them about Chicago street gang operations, than to indict him for the murders of seven people? Could such a thing be possible?
Well, could it?
A zero lead, came the reply.
A simultaneous effort to get Dick Zuley to speak candidly and without fear of administrative reprisals, to key individuals within the Chicago Crime Commission was thwarted by Mike Malone, then Chief of Detectives of the Chicago Police Department. Malone, who was promoted to Deputy Superintendent (one of five in the Chicago P.D. hierarchy) about a year ego, imposed his own gag order. Malone explained that it was not within his jurisdiction to interfere in an open murder investiga tion outside the city's borders. Zuley is highly respected in law enforcement circles, and he has investigated numerous murders over the years. Even Bratcher conceded as much. "I've talked to people in the law enforcement business and they tell me the Chicago homicide division is the best in the country," Portillo adds. It was at this time that Portillo came to the alarming conclusion that turf issues and jealousies were impeding the progress of the investigation.
Frank Portillo is of the belief that Zuley has been scapegoated in the media by his opponents as a publicity hound trying to get back at the Task Force because they kicked him off the investigation.
The Cruz lead was not fully checked out by task force members and the interrogation of Cruz and his partner Miguel Sanchez lasted for less than an hour-and-a-half. It was conducted after Zuley had stepped out of the building to contact Chief John Milner of the Elmhurst Police Department to discuss the case and to grab a quick bite to eat. When he returned he discovered that John Robertson, one of Jack O'Malley's guys and Detective Koziol of the Palatine P.D. had ordered the 36-year-old Elgin man and his friend released because Cruz had impressed his interrogators that he was an honest man by looking them square in the eye while denying involvement in the murders. Chief Bratcher arrived at the surprising conclusion that there was no just cause for keeping either Cruz or Sanchez under continued surveillance. John Milner, the Elmhurst chief, strongly disagreed - and advised the F.B.I. that the Cruz lead was still worth pursuing.
"This case has been screwed up since the beginning" commented Larry Schreiner in the Daily Herald."Authorities are no closer to solving the case today than they were at the beginning. They can say what they want, but that is the truth." However, the columnist is equally critical of the BGA/Crime Commission effort to focus on the tenor of the investigation.
It is unusual in a high-profile murder case such as this one for a suspect to be questioned for so short a period of time and be released because he appeared to be telling the truth. Jose Cruz, still trading favors as a government informant, was transferred to a federal prison in Pekin, Illinois, after serving his sentence for the Skokie robbery at the Graham Correctional Center in Hillsboro.
In January 1995, Manny Castro, owner of a Montrose Avenue tee-shirt shop, filed a civil law suit against Brown's Fried Chicken, accusing the fast-food company of failing to provide adequate security measures which the plaintiff believes contributed to the murders. Castro's 16-year-old son Michael was one of the victims.
One theory that has been bandied about in the two-and-a-half years that have elapsed since the shootings, is that the younger Castro was known to the killers through possible street gang connections. He was the only victim of the tragedy who was beaten before being shot. The shootings, some believe, may have resulted from continuing gang warfare and old hostilities. Manny Castro is a licensed gun dealer who received a citation on May 2, 1992. The scenario is pure conjecture at this point, but it has been discussed privately among Task Force members.
James F. Bell is one of the outside experts brought in to coordinate the Brown's task force. Bell, an F.B.I. agent experienced in major case management, specializes in tracking down serial killers. He worked on the Ted Bundy case and the still unsolved Green River killings in the Pacific Northwest. Bell has described the Palatine task force as the most professional he has encountered in his career, thus far. However, Portillo's frustrations continue to mount and he wonders if Bell has overstated the skill level of this suburban investigatory body. "What is Jim Bell's background and has he ever solved a case? Did Detective Koziol? What about the State's Attorney's men?" Portillo wonders. "Were they ever a part of a team that solved a homicide case? I would rather listen to the guys that have actually served time in the trenches and solved a murder case."
Portillo said that the Palatine P.D. never asked him the probing questions - but the Chicago guys did. No-one within the top level of the suburban task force seemed to be very interested in finding out who had been coming and going from the restaurant in the days and weeks leading up to the murders. There were at least 17 outside vendors and employees who had access to the front and rear areas of the dining establishment during that time. None were questioned however. If police had obtained such a list from Portillo in the early stages of the investigation they might have saved themselves some work by eliminating worker's fingerprints from those who realistically might have been regarded as suspects.
A sales clerk at Montgomery, Illinois (located outside Aurora) car wash who is fluent in Spanish, reported to police that she overheard a conversation between four men who had dropped by her place shortly after the murders. Two of the men were described as biker types.
the other two were Hispanic.
A police sketch artist produced an image that looked a lot like Miguel Sanchez, one of the suspects tied to Cruz and the compelling Lead 80. The woman claimed to have overheard a conversation in an unmistakable Puerto Rican dialect in which the Palatine killings were discussed. One of them asked: "Why'd you have to do them all?"
A police report was filed and sent on to the Palatine task force - where it gathered dust.
Nearly three years later, the woman was interviewed a second time by police, but only after NBC-TV newsman Dave Savini and Chuck Goudy of Channel 7 took a second look at this case and came up with some intriguing new leads. A vehicle allegedly driven by Cruz, Avilez, and Sanchez was discovered hidden away inside a Chicago garage. According to statements given by the mother of one of Avilez, girlfriends, the same car was used in several robbery forays by the gang members. That's when Frank Portillo contacted Savini to relate his theories about the cotton seed residue. Portillo doubts that a chemical analysis was ever conducted on the vehicle but the Task Force has concluded that the car was not the same one used by the killers
Meanwhile the woman talked candidly to Task Force investigators about what she had overheard. She claimed that shortly afterward two men broke into her residence and assaulted her. The woman said she was fortunate to escape with her life but she now faces sentencing for illegally posing as a nurse. Law enforcement investigators have described her as a con artist who has swindled friends out of money and they doubt her credibility as a witness after she flunked a lie detector test.
Portillo was never told who Jose Cruz and Miguel Sanchez were, or about the Aurora lead for more than two years. "I was never approached by anybody," he said. "But I had the utmost confidence that the Palatine task force was doing its job....until I started getting these calls. I hate to even think that there are ego issues involved. Ego never entered into my vocabulary until...." Frank Portillo's voice trails off.
Frustrated with the lack of results, the stonewalling tactics of Jerry Bratcher and other Task Force members, and the off-the-record comments of the savvy Chicago detective that the case might have been blown, Portillo decided to go public. He took his case before the Better Government Association and the Chicago Crime Commission, where he serves as a vice-president.
The two civic watchdog agencies deflected the press criticisms and agreed to pool their resources and work toward a common objective of moving the investigation off the dime and to determine if egos and personalities interfered with the solving of die crime. A blue-ribbon panel of attorneys, academicians, retired police officials including retired Illinois State Police Superintendent James McGuire, and former judge Louis B. Garippo, comprise the ten-member panel. Retired Commander Rudolph E. Nimocks, Sr., of the Chicago Police Department homicide division who now heads the University of Chicago security detail agreed to participate, then withdrew his name. Rumor has it that he did so allegedly because his former bosses at 11th and State determined that his involvement represented a conflict of their interest.
Former U.S. Attorney General Richard L. Thornburgh will serve as a special consultant.
"In light of the many public and private allegations that the investigation was not thoroughly developed in Palatine, there appears to be a lack of public confidence in this major homicide investigation," explained Chicago Crime Commission President Donald Mulack. "These allegations should be thoroughly examined by independent experts to restore public confidence in the investigation." Without access to the sealed records and the cooperation of Task Force members, just how much this panel can accomplish remains to be seen. Bratcher and the powers that be keep insisting that Portillo's motives are personal, and the BOA and Crime Commission are acting solely on his desire to be on the winning end of a lawsuit stung from the case.
"How could my desire to solve this case effect the outcome of a lawsuits' Portillo wonders. "All I want is for the various law enforcement agencies to work together harmoniously to affect a final resolution and let the chips fall where they may."
The lessons of Palatine offer convincing proof that the moment is at hand for the centralization of law enforcement known as Metropolitan Policing to coyer the length and breath of Cook County end then for each of the collar counties - Lake, DuPage, Will, and McHenry. In a homicide case the magnitude of Palatine, the small departments lack the staffing and sophistication to adequately respond They simply do not have the manpower or the available hours to effectively coordinate an investigation.
The efficient service of policing the public demands just cannot afford to wait any longer, and recognizing the growing importance of the bold concept, BGA Director J. Terrance Brunner has already gone on record and said that the panelists will likely consider whether an area-wide agency should handle major crimes in the suburbs. That would be a good start toward heading off a willful test of egos, which in the final analysis compromised the Palatine investigation from the time it went down.
Metropolitan policing is an idea whose time has come and more and more police professionals are increasingly going on the record by giving consideration to the concept.
But now comes a glimmer of hope vested in the two watchdog agencies whose task it will be to evaluate the system and issue thought provoking recommendations that will lead to a thorough and comprehensive overall of the present methods of policing Cook and the collar counties - though local and possibly federal law enforcement agencies and the politicians they serve will continue to belittle end stone-wall them in their effort. What it boils down to is an age-old beef against civilians meddling in police affairs. A turf battle. But this time the stakes are much higher.
"We've got to be bigger than personalities," Portillo countered. "We have an opportunity to show the citizens of Illinois that when two very prestigious watchdog organizations get together and are united without ego, we will find out if the government is working harmoniously on behalf of all the people. The State's Attorney and the leadership of the Palatine task force should be serving the public. It is not their private kingdoms that they can run and not answer to the public. The last I heard America is a government of the people and for the people."
What is to be done? What can be done?
Unfortunately it has to be said that the salvos coming from two camps (who should never be in an opposing position) have been fired. Now it is time for a final accounting, thoughtful analysis of the existing problem, and meaningful recommendation. But if all of the concerned parties are unable to deliver more than empty rhetoric, the last best hope for justice (that being regional policing) may have already been exhausted and a dilapidated, antiquated system - will again prevail and a repeat of this tragedy will likely occur with the same dismal results.
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