Jeanine Nicarico murder case

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The Jeanine Nicarico murder case was a complex and influential homicide investigation and prosecution which took place in DuPage County, Illinois, that sent two men to prison who were later exonerated and released, and contributed to the death penalty moratorium imposed by then-Governor George H. Ryan.

In July 2009, Brian Dugan entered a plea of guilty to the murder of Nicarico after having previously confessed to the crime. Dugan is jailed on two unrelated murder charges, one of a 27-year-old woman and one which began with the abduction of two seven-year-old girls, one of whom escaped while the other was raped and murdered by Dugan. On November 11, 2009, after deliberating about 10 hours over two days, a DuPage County jury sentenced Brian Dugan to death for the rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico 26 years earlier. Dugan's sentence was commuted to life in prison after Illinois abolished the death penalty in 2011.

Abduction, rape and murder[edit]

Nicarico was born July 7, 1972, in Naperville, Illinois. She was kidnapped, raped, sodomized, and murdered on February 25, 1983, when her home was burglarized on a day in which she had stayed home from school due to illness. Her body was found two days later along the Illinois Prairie Path near Eola Road.[1] Her mother, Pat, an elementary school secretary, spoke with her on the telephone in the early afternoon. Nicarico was kidnapped during the commission of a burglary at her home. Her father was at work and her sisters were at school.[1]

Prosecution of Cruz, Hernandez, and Buckley[edit]

Rolando Cruz, Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley were indicted in March 1984.[2] A joint trial was held; in February 1985, Cruz and Hernandez were convicted, but the jury deadlocked on Buckley.[2][dead link] The next month, both Cruz and Hernandez were sentenced to death.[1]

In November 1985, Brian Dugan, who was already in jail and being tried for the murder of a seven-year-old girl and a 27-year-old woman, confessed to the crime through his attorney. Dugan plea-bargained his charges to life imprisonment.[1]

In 1987, the charges against Buckley were dismissed by a judge.[2][dead link]

On January 19, 1988, the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the conviction of Cruz and Hernandez because the two did not have separate trials.[2][dead link] Both were retried despite public pressure on the DuPage State's Attorney's office to pursue the Dugan confession. Cruz was convicted in his second trial in February 1990.[2][dead link] The second trial of Hernandez ended in a hung jury in May 1990;[2][dead link] after his third trial, Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison on May 17, 1991.[2][dead link]

Meanwhile, Cruz had appealed. In December, 1992, his second conviction was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court,[2][dead link] but in May 1993 the court agreed to rehear the case, and on July 14, 1994, Cruz was ordered a third trial.[2][dead link]

The Illinois Appellate Court overturned the second conviction of Hernandez on January 30, 1995.[2][dead link]

During his third trial, a sheriff's lieutenant reversed his testimony, and Cruz was acquitted in November 1995. A state investigator was appointed to review the recanted testimony.[2][dead link] In December 1995, charges against Hernandez were dismissed by the State's Attorney.[2][dead link]


Seven DuPage County law enforcement officials, three prosecutors and four deputies, were indicted by a grand jury in December 1996 on charges of conspiracy to convict Cruz despite being aware of exculpatory evidence. After numerous proceedings, in June 1999 all seven had been acquitted for framing the men.[1][3]

Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley reached a $3.5 million civil settlement with DuPage County for their wrongful prosecution on Sept. 26, 2000.[2][dead link]

In 2002, Gov. George Ryan granted Cruz a pardon.[2][dead link]

In November 2005, Dugan was indicted for the Nicarico murder.[1] On July 22, 2009, Dugan entered a plea of guilty to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Nicarico.[1] On November 11, 2009, Dugan was sentenced to death. On December 16, 2009 the judge set the execution date for February 25, 2010.[1][4] His sentence was later commuted to life in prison after the death penalty was abolished in Illinois.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Man Pleads Guilty in 1983 Rape, Murder of Jeanine Nicarico"; July 28, 2009 KTLA article; retrieved 11/09/2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "Chronology Of Events In Nicarico Case". WBBM-TV. November 30, 2005. Archived from the original on April 29, 2010. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  3. ^ "Not Guilty Plea Entered In Jeanine Nicarico Case". Associated Press. January 18, 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2007-07-23. 
  4. ^ "Judge officially OKs Dugan death verdict". December 16, 2009. Retrieved August 20, 2011. [permanent dead link]