Man wrongly convicted in Nicarico murder speaks out

July 27, 2009 8:50:29 PM PDT
A guilty plea is expected on Tuesday in the murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico.Brian Dugan is expected to admit to killing the Naperville girl back in the mid 1980s. But a man who spent years on death row for that crime before being exonerated is angry about the plea.

From a legal standpoint, Brian Dugan's expected guilty plea to the rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico will resolve a 26 year-old mystery.

Rolando Cruz says his years behind bars, falsely convicted of the crime, ruined his life. Now he worries the guilty plea will deny the public from hearing the full truth about the crime and he believes it might spare Brian Dugan from getting the death penalty.

He's been a free man now for about as long as he spent behind bars - 12 years. Rolando Cruz is now a family man who says he treasures his children. But he says he's still haunted by the decade he spent on death row for the rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico, a crime he says he had nothing to do with.

"I want justice. I'm not talking about for me. I'm talking about for everybody. Everybody. Jeanine especially. For my little kids," said Rolando Cruz.

Cruz won a multimillion dollar settlement against DuPage County authorities nine years ago though law enforcement officials were acquitted of criminal charges. But most of the money Cruz says he gave away. What he really has wanted all these years, he says, is for the truth to come out. That's why he wants Brian Dugan to be put on trial rather than be allowed plead guilty.

"Why don't them try him? How can Birkett justify not taking him to trial to expose everything," said Cruz.

Sources confirm Brian Dugan plans to plead guilty to the Nicarico murder on Tuesday. Because of a gag order, neither his attorney nor DuPage County state's attorney Joe Birkett will comment. But Birkett has said in the past he will pursue the death penalty regardless of a plea. Rolando Cruz says that's the only way there can be justice in this case.

"What he did was not just to Jeanine, it was to a community, to a city, to a state, to a people, to a country. What he did was not just rape and murder her, he raped and murdered all of us," said Cruz.

Brian Dugan is already serving self life sentences for other crimes and legal scholars tell ABC7 prosecutors have little choice but to accept the guilty plea. They are, however, expected to pursue the death penalty.


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