Hours before seven people were found murdered inside a Palatine restaurant, police dismissed the concerns of two families worried about workers who didn't come home, the families said Monday.
Police even visited the Brown's Chicken & Pasta twice that night, first on the urging of a distraught father and later during a routine patrol, relatives said. But, they said, police never tried to go inside.
While investigators have not said what time the seven victims were shot, the revelations about the families' inquiries and police actions raise questions about possible missed opportunities in getting started on the investigation.
One family member also said he believes that the hours between the first worried call to police and the discovery of the bodies might have made the difference between life and death.
"If someone was still living, gasping for breath, we might have saved his life," Emmanuel Castro, whose 16-year-old son Michael was killed in the massacre, said Monday. "I'm not saying they could have saved my Michael, but maybe they could have found one or two who could be saved."
At a news conference Monday, Cook County State's Atty. Jack O'Malley said: "We have no criticism of the police investigation. Obviously, we would have preferred it if the police could have discovered the crime while it was in progress or beforehand or 15 minutes afterward."
Palatine Deputy Chief Walt Gasior said that police have no record of contact with the family of Guadalupe Maldonado. Pedro Maldonado had gone to the restaurant at 1:30 a.m. Saturday to look for his brother but was shooed away by police, family members said, an hour before the police discovered the bodies.
The department is checking into allegations raised by the Castros, who first roused police around 11:45 p.m. Friday to check for problems at the restaurant but were told by an officer that everything was fine. The Castros, who met the officer at the restaurant a few minutes later, maintain that the officer never got out of his squad car to check the restaurant.
More than two hours later, when the Castros filed a formal missing-person report on their son, police returned to the restaurant, at 168 W. Northwest Hwy., they said. It was then that the bodies were discovered.
Castro and his wife, Epifania, publicly discussed their ordeal for the first time Monday in an interview.
The Castros said they were certain early on that something terrible had happened to their son when he didn't return to their Palatine home shortly after the restaurant's usual 9 p.m. closing time.
Michael Castro always called if he was going to be late, they said. Shortly after 11 p.m., his parents drove to the restaurant. It was dimly lighted and looked closed.
"There's no movement. There's no nothing," Emmanuel Castro recalled.
When they saw Michael's car and three others, they hoped that their son might have gone out to eat with his co-workers.
The Castros drove to a local McDonald's and a Subway restaurant, but they didn't find Michael.
They went home, hoping he would call, and watched television to while away the time. At 11:45 p.m., the missing youth's mother turned to her husband and asked, "What shall we do?"
He called police, then drove to the restaurant, pulling in behind the police car.
They said the officer drove around the building, but there still was no outward sign that anything was wrong.