I’ll file this story under the category of, “I’ll believe it when I see it.”
The Chicago Tribune reported that Brian Dugan, the man who has been incarcerated for nearly three decades now for the slayings of assorted girls and women, may now actually plead guilty to one of the “Crimes of the Century” for suburban DuPage County.
DUGAN IS THE inmate whose name has come up for years in conjunction with the disappearance and death of Jeanine Nicarico, who was a 10-year-old girl in 1983 when she was left home from school one day because she felt ill.
When her parents came home, Jeanine was gone. She was found dead days later.
The case became bogged down as two other men were repeatedly put on trial and convicted, then had those convictions overturned on appeal.
DNA technology eventually produced the evidence that let those two men get acquittals, even though some people insist they believe that Alejandro Hernandez and Rolando Cruz had to be involved in the crime somehow.
BUT BACK IN the days when Cruz and Hernandez were a cause celebre for the people who oppose the death penalty, they would always insist that Dugan was the true culprit.
In fact, throughout the years, Dugan has admitted to certain people that he committed the crime against Nicarico.
But he has never been willing to say such a thing to prosecutors, or under any circumstance in which he was under oath – which would make him liable to perjury if he were not telling the truth.
Dugan has always said he might be willing to talk, if he could be assured that he would not face a death sentence (he’s already serving prison terms adding up to life plus 155 years for other incidents against women and girls).
BUT THE PROSECUTORS who were eager to put Cruz and Hernandez to death by lethal injection are adamant in their desire to see someone die for this crime.
So Dugan has kept his mouth shut. Until now. Maybe. Unless he changes his mind in the next couple of days.
For as the Tribune accounts report, Dugan may use a status hearing in his case scheduled for next week to enter a “guilty” plea. But he would want a jury of his peers to then decide what his sentence should be, rather than allowing the judge in DuPage County to do so.
He seems to believe that if the jury merely has to decide his sentence, rather than his guilt and sentence, they might be inclined to give him yet another prison term (which considering that he’s already likely to spend the rest of his life in prison wouldn’t mean much of a change for him).
PERHAPS IT HAS something to do with the fact that prosecutors wouldn’t be hammering away at three-decade-old gory details of Jeanine’s death over and over. He might come up with a clinical explanation that lessens the horror of the incident.
DuPage County officials might be inclined to go along with this deal, just because it would finally bring this case that I remember covering two decades ago as a reporter-type for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago to a close.
How long has this case gone on?
Take into account that if Jeanine Nicarico were alive now, she’d be 36. In fact, I once remember Jeanine’s parents saying one of the hardest aspects of coping with the loss of their daughter was watching all of her youthful friends grow up into adulthood, and wonder what would have become of Jeanine.
BUT THE FACT that DuPage County is willing to go along with this legal scheme does not lessen their desire for a death sentence. They’re still going to push for it – even though the presence of the moratorium brought about by George Ryan and maintained by Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn means that Dugan is not likely to face an actual execution date for a long, long time.
This is one of those incidents that prosecutors are determined to get that “death sentence” for to put what they consider to be an appropriate ending to this case – even if it never results in an execution and merely ends up with Dugan having to move to a more-intense level of security within the Illinois Department of Corrections.
Of course, I couldn’t help but notice that even the newspaper notes the uncertainty of this appeal, as they point out in their story that Dugan could change his mind anytime between now and his scheduled Tuesday court hearing.
Considering his attitude throughout the years, it wouldn’t shock me if this thought of an ending to the Nicarico court battle being snatched away at Dugan’s whim is part of his desire to mess with prosecutors.
WHICH MEANS THIS could all be just an inmate’s game to keep himself amused at prosecutor expense.
After all, he’s 50 now, and has spent the bulk of his life in prison. What else does he have to do these days?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Prosecutors would be able to bring up gory details of the 7-year-old Somonauk girl and 27-year-old nurse for whom Dugan is already serving prison terms (http://www.chicagobreakingnews.com/2009/07/dugan-may-plead-guilty-in-nicarico-murder-case.html) for killing.