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The Jeanine Nicarico murder case was a complex and influential homicide investigation and prosecution 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 pleaded guilty to the murder of Nicarico after previously confessing 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 and the other of whom 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.


Abduction, rape and murder

Jeanine Nicarico (born July 7, 1972) was kidnapped, raped and murdered on February 25, 1983. Her body was found two days later.[1]Jeanine was home sick with the flu. Her mom, Pat, left her job as an elementary school secretary to drive home at noon to fix Jeanine a grilled cheese sandwich. Pat returned to work but spoke with Jeanine on the telephone in the early afternoon. Jeanine’s dad was at work and her sisters were at school.

Prosecution of Cruz, Hernandez, and Buckley

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

On January 19, 1988 the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the conviction of Cruz and Hernandez because the two did not have separate trials.[1] 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.[1] The second trial of Hernandez ended in a hung jury in May 1990;[1] after his third trial, Hernandez was convicted and sentenced to 80 years in prison on May 17, 1991.[1]

Meanwhile, Cruz had appealed. In December, 1992, his second conviction was upheld by the Illinois Supreme Court[1], but in May 1993 the court agreed to rehear the case, and on July 14, 1994 Cruz was ordered a third trial.[1]

The Illinois Appellate Court overturned the second conviction of Hernandez on January 30, 1995.[1]

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.[1] In December 1995, charges against Hernandez were dismissed by the State's Attorney.[1]


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][2]

Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley reached a $3.5 million civil settlement with DuPage County for their wrongful prosecution on Sept. 26, 2000.[1]

In 2002, Gov. George Ryan granted Cruz a pardon.[1]

In November 2005, Dugan was indicted for the Nicarico murder.[1] On July 22, 2009, Dugan plead guilty to the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Nicarico.[3] On November 11, 2009, Dugan was sentenced to death.[3]

On December 16th, 2009 the judge imposed the death sentence for Brian Dugan and set the execution date for February 25th, 2010.[4]

See also


External links

Brian James Dugan (born September 23, 1956)[1] is an American rapist and serial killer active between 1983 and 1985 in west suburban Illinois. He is currently on death row for the 1983 murder of 10 year-old Jeanine Nicarico.


Early Life And Crimes

Brian Dugan was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, the second child of James and Genevieve "Jenny" Dugan.[2] He has one sister and three brothers. According to Brian's siblings, both James and Jenny Dugan were alcoholics.[3] In 1967, Dugan family moved to Lisle, Illinois.

According to Brian's family, his birth was traumatic. Brian began to emerge before the attending physician had arrived and so, in attempt to delay his birth, the family claims that a nurse and an intern pushed Brian's head back inside his mother and strapped her legs together.[4] Relatives would later question if this caused Brian to have brain damage because as a youth Brian suffered severe headaches followed by vomiting for which he took medication until his teens.[5] Dugan was also a chronic bed wetter, a condition his adult father also suffered from.[6]

At age 8, Brian and a younger brother burned down the family garage and, according to his brother, Steven, at age 13 Brian poured gasoline on a cat and lit it on fire.[7] In 1972, Brian ran away to Iowa and later that year he was arrested on a burglary charge.[8] It was his first arrest and would be followed by convictions for other crimes including arson, battery, and other burglaries. In 1974, he attempted to abduct a 10 year-old girl from a train station in Lisle. Charges were brought but later dropped.[9] In 1975, Brian threatened to kill his sister, Hilary, "chop up" her son, and vandalized her car.[10] According to Steven Dugan, Brian attempted to molest him in 1972 after a stay in a youth home, were, Steven suspected, Brian may have been sexually assaulted.[11] Brian Dugan spent time in the Menard Correctional Center from 1979 until 1982.


Jeanine Nicarico

On February 25, 1983, 10 year-old Jeanine Nicarico (born July 7, 1972) was abducted in broad daylight from her home in Naperville, Illinois. Suffering from the flu, Jeanine was at home alone while her parents were at work and her sisters were at school. Her body was found 2 days later, six miles from her home.[12] She had been raped and beaten to death. Rolando Cruz, 20 year-old gang member from Aurora, initially came to the attention of the police after he fed them false information about the murder in an attempt to claim the $10,000 reward being offered.[13] Soon, police charged Cruz, along with Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley, with Jeanine's rape and murder despite a lack of evidence. Cruz and Hernandez were convicted and sentenced to death (the jury deadlocked on Buckley and he was not retried).

Donna Schnorr

On July 15, 1984, Dugan took notice of Donna Schnorr, a 27 year-old nurse from Geneva, Illinois, in her car at a stoplight. He followed her and ran her off the road with his car, after which he beat and raped her. Dugan murdered Donna Schnorr by drowning her in the quarry.

Melissa Ackerman

In May 1985, Dugan went on a crime spree that culminated with the murder of Melissa Ackerman, who was just 7 years-old. On May 6, Dugan raped a 21 year-old woman, who survived the attack.[14] On May 28, Dugan tried but failed to abduct a 19 year-old woman who was walking along the road. The following day, he abducted and raped a 16 year-old girl.[15] On June 2, 1985, Melissa Ackerman and her 8 year-old friend, Opal Horton, were riding their bikes in Somonauk, Illinois when they were confronted by Brian Dugan. Dugan grabbed Opal first and threw her in his car, but the girl managed to escape while Dugan was apprehending Melissa.[16] Melissa's body was found several weeks later.


The Schnorr and Ackerman Murders

The day following Melissa Ackerman's murder, Dugan was arrested at his job. He came to the attention of the police after a police officer from a neighboring town of Somonauk reported encountering Dugan about the out-of date vehicle sticker on his car and Opal Horton was also able to give the police a description of Dugan's vehicle.[17] Once Melissa Ackerman's body was found, Dugan was charged with her murder when police were able to link him to the crime through physical evidence found in Dugan's belongings. In exchange for avoiding the death penalty, Dugan confessed to the murders of both Melissa Ackerman and Donna Schnorr.[18] Brian offered no real explanation for the crimes, stating:

"It might have been for the sex, but I don't understand why. I wish I knew why I did a lot of things, but I don't."[19]

Jeanine Nicarico

Brian Dugan was not initially a suspect in Jeanine Nicarico's murder. However, in 1985, he gave an unofficial confession to the crime but wanted to avoid the death penalty in that case. Prosecutors rejected this demand so Dugan refused to make an official confession.[20] Dugan would later claim that he made his confession in order to take responsibility for the crime and clear Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, although Cruz has stated that he believes that Dugan's motives were self-serving and had nothing to do with the truth.[21][22] Both Cruz and Hernandez were eventually exonerated of the crime after much of the evidence and testimony against them was discredited. In 1999, seven DuPage County law enforcement officials were tried but acquitted of conspiring to frame Rolando Cruz.[23] Eventually, prosecutors were able to link Dugan to Nicarico's murder through DNA testing. Dugan was indicted for the murder in 2005. In 2009, Dugan plead guilty to the murder and was sentenced to death.[24][25]

Possible Encounter With John Wayne Gacy

In 2008, it was reported that Brian Dugan had claimed, since the 1980s, that in 1972, he had been molested by John Wayne Gacy. According to the story, Dugan encountered a man at a Lisle grocery store who offered him a job. Dugan got in the man's car and the man took him to a secluded area where Dugan was forced to model bikini brief underwear and perform oral sex on the man. The man then gave Dugan $20 and returned him to the grocery store where he picked Dugan up.[26] Dugan claimed that after seeing John Wayne Gacy's face following Gacy's 1978 arrest he realized that Gacy was the same man from the grocery store. Author Clifford L. Linedecker, who wrote the 1985 Gacy biography "The Man Who Killed Boys", noted that the then 15 year-old Brian Dugan would have fit the profile of the typical Gacy victim.[27] However, Gacy prosecutor Terry Sullivan doubted the story, pointing out that not only did Dugan not come forward at the time of the crime, but the Dugan's story did not match Gacy's typical methods nor was Lisle known to be one of Gacy's hunting grounds.[28]


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