Dugan may plead guilty in Nicarico murder

July 22, 2009 3:19:15 PM PDT
The man charged in the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico could make a deal in an effort to save his own life. Brian Dugan may enter a guilty plea next week admitting that he killed the Naperville girl 25 years ago.

Dugan is already serving life sentences for two other murders.

Dugan is scheduled to go on trail in September for the Jeanine Nicarico murder. The girl was home alone when she was killed. Her body was found in the woods two days later.

Brian Dugan first offered to plead guilty and confess to killing 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico back in the mid 1980s. But he did so with the condition that he would be spared the death penalty.

All along, the DuPage County state's attorney has said 'no deal.' That hasn't changed, but Dugan, it appears, is about to roll the dice and plead guilty anyway, in the hopes that a jury will spare his life.

Convicted killer Brian Dugan, who is now 52, offered nearly 25 years ago to admit to killing Jeanine Nicarico.

In that time, two other men -- Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez -- spent years on death row for the crime before finally being exonerated.

In 1983, Jeanine Nicarico was raped and beaten to death after being abducted from her home near Naperville. She was home sick with the flu.

Dugan, who is in prison for killing a nurse from Geneva and a 7-year-old girl, along with other sex crimes, has been willing to confess, if his life would be spared.

Now, he appears willing to do so even without such a deal.

"This is the most egregious example of police, prosecutorial and judicial misconduct in the 30 years since I've been working on this case," said Rob Warden, Center on Wrongful Convictions.

Rob Warden first wrote about the Dugan confession for Chicago Lawyer magazine in 1985. Now director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University, he says with a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois, this should have been a done deal a long time ago.

"So whatever would possess Joe Birkett to put the county to this expense in order to put a man on death row when it's highly unlikely he'll ever be executed, already in prison for life...and that's going to cost taxpayers millions," said Warden.

Sources told ABC7 Dugan will stand before a DuPage County judge next Tuesday and enter a guilty plea as his September trial date is drawing near.

Defense attorney Richard Kling says he's apparently hoping the move will be viewed favorably by jurors who could decide to spare his life.

"If he pleads guilty and comes in there with, 'I've plead guilty and accepted responsibility,' showing remorse, he's hoping, I would assume, that the jury is going to have some pity on him," said Kling.

DuPage County state's attorney Joe Birkett will not speculate on what Dugan might do next Tuesday, as a gag order has been issued by the judge.

In the past, Birkett has called Dugan the 'poster boy' for why the death penalty remains Illinois law despite the moratorium on it.

The Nicaricos aren't planning on being in the courtroom next week. They have moved to South Carolina. They say they may comment afterward.


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