Illinois jury sentences Brian Dugan to death

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A DuPage County, Illinois jury has sentenced Brian Dugan to death for the February 25, 1983, abduction, rape, and murder of ten-year-old Jeanine Nicarico from Naperville.

The jury has been empaneled for a six-week sentencing hearing to determine Dugan's eligibility for the death penalty. Closing arguments lasted for nearly six hours last Tuesday. The jury then deliberated for five hours until 10 pm, when the judge said that the jury had reached a verdict.

The jurors were then called into the courtroom, but in a surprising turn of events, the judge announced that the jury would like to continue deliberations. He sequestered them overnight, and deliberations continued Wednesday morning. The jury then announced that it had sentenced Dugan to death. He is now also suspected of committing four other murders.

Two men from Aurora, Alejandro Hernandez and Rolando Cruz, were first convicted of the crime on February 22, 1985. The jury deadlocked on Stephen Buckley, also from Aurora. On November 8 of that year, Dugan's lawyer revealed that his client, charged with the rape and murder of seven-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk, was also the lone murderer of Nicarico. Dugan was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of Melissa Ackerman and Donna Schnorr, a twenty-seven-year-old woman from Geneva.

Charges against Buckley were subsequently dropped in March 5, 1987. On July 14, 1994, the Illinois Supreme Court overturned Cruz's conviction and ordered a new trial. Hernandez's conviction was later overturned as well. A judge acquitted Cruz of the crime on November 3, 1995, and charges against Hernandez were later dismissed.

Refinements in DNA testing allowed law enforcement officials to narrow down the list of suspects. In 2002, DuPage County State's Attorney Joe Birkett stated that DNA certainly proved that Dugan was involved in the murder. He was charged in November 29, 2005, and pleaded guilty on July 18 of this year.