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Brian James DUGAN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Serial killer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 3
Date of murders: 1983 - 1985
Date of arrest: June 3, 1985
Date of birth: September 23, 1956
Victims profile: Jeanine Nicarico, 10 / Donna Schnorr, 27 / Melissa Ackerman, 7
Method of murder: Beating - Drowning in a quarry - Strangulation
Location: Illinois, USA
Status: Sentenced to two life sentences plus 215 years in prison on November 19, 1985. Sentenced to death on December 16, 2009. In 2011 Illinois governor Patrick Quinn abolished capital punishment and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.
 
 

 
 

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Brian James Dugan (born September 23, 1956) is an American rapist and serial killer active between 1983 and 1985 in Chicago's western suburbs. He was on death row for the 1983 murder of 10 year-old Jeanine Nicarico until Illinois governor Patrick Quinn abolished capital punishment in 2011 and his sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Early life and crimes

Brian Dugan was born in Nashua, New Hampshire, the second child of James and Genevieve "Jenny" Dugan. He has one sister and three brothers. According to Brian's siblings, both James and Jenny Dugan were alcoholics. 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. 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. Dugan was also a chronic bed wetter, a condition his adult father also suffered from.

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. In 1972, Brian ran away to Iowa and later that year he was arrested on a burglary charge. 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. In 1975, Brian threatened to kill his sister, Hilary, "chop up" her son, and vandalized her car. According to Steven Dugan, Brian attempted to molest him in 1972 after a stay in a youth home, where, Steven suspected, Brian may have been sexually assaulted. Brian Dugan spent time in the Menard Correctional Center from 1979 until 1982.

Murders

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. 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. 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 a 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. 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.

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. Melissa's body was found several weeks later.

Aftermath

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. 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. 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."

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. 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.

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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Wikipedia.org


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. 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. A joint trial was held; in February 1985, Cruz and Hernandez were convicted, but the jury deadlocked on Buckley. The next month, o Cruz and Hernandez were sentenced to death.

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.

In 1987, the charges against Buckley were dismissed by a judge.

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

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

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

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

Aftermath

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.

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

In 2002, Gov. George Ryan granted Cruz a pardon.

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

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

Wikipedia.org


Brian Dugan may plead guilty to ‘83 murder of Jeanine Nicarico

Convicted killer might let jury decide only if he should get death penalty

By Art Barnum - ChicagoTribune.com

December 9, 2008

Brian Dugan is considering pleading guilty to the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville and letting a DuPage County jury decide only if he should get the death penalty.

Steven Greenberg, one of Dugan’s attorneys, said in court Monday that the court could bypass the guilt or innocence phase of a trial this way, choosing a jury that would move directly to deciding punishment.

His statement came in response to a question by DuPage Judge George Bakalis during more discussions leading up to the start of the trial, which was scheduled for Jan. 20 but will be delayed until at least March and possibly as late as September.

Neither Greenberg nor DuPage County State’s Atty. Joseph Birkett would comment further on the issue because Bakalis has asked both sides not to talk about the case outside the courtroom. However, the defense apparently feels it has a better chance of getting a life sentence if the jury doesn’t hear testimony to determine guilt.

Dugan has offered to plead guilty in an agreement that would automatically give him a life sentence, but Birkett has refused that offer.

Birkett filed a motion Monday trying to curtail any arguments that Dugan deserves credit, not death, for making statements that helped get two people originally charged with the crime, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, off Death Row.

“It is impossible to tell Dugan’s story with talking about the others involved,” Greenberg said. “He came forward, he cooperated. He didn’t have to. I don’t know if these people would have been executed without him.”

Birkett argued Monday that the Cruz and Hernandez case “had nothing to do with Dugan. That is just an opinion that shouldn’t be heard.” He agreed that any jury should be allowed to hear the history of the case, including the Cruz and Hernandez elements, but said Dugan should not be allowed to take credit for helping them avoiding death.

Bakalis didn’t make any ruling on Birkett’s motion but indicated it would be the subject of a later hearing.

If Dugan decides to plead guilty to killing Nicarico, a sentencing jury would still hear about the two murders he committed for which he is serving two consecutive life sentences, those of a 7-year-old Somonauk girl and a 27-year-old Kane County nurse.


Inside Brian Dugans FBI File

January 12, 2007

Whatever fuels Brian Dugan’s rage went off that day.

On June 2, 1985, the Aurora man drove aimlessly amid the cornfields of DeKalb and LaSalle counties - until he passed two young girls riding their bikes in the rural town of Somonauk.

He tried to abduct them. One girl escaped, but 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman was trapped. Dugan sexually assaulted the child and drowned her in a creek 17 miles away.

Police nabbed Dugan the day after Melissa’s disappearance for questioning in an unrelated rape. By the time searchers found her body 15 days later, the FBI had accumulated hundreds of pages of background on him. Those records have never been made public - until now.

The Daily Herald obtained them through a confidential law enforcement source after prosecutors indicted the imprisoned killer one year ago for the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville. She is believed to be the first of his three murder victims. He also stands convicted of killing Donna Schnorr, a 27-year-old nurse from Geneva.

The FBI files contain more than 1,500 leads in the Ackerman investigation. They include dozens of rare interviews with Dugan’s mother, siblings, girlfriends and co-workers. The files also hold early prison mental evaluations.

Dugan’s 13-year crime spree of arsons, burglaries, rapes and murder is well documented, even chronicled in a book, but the FBI files reveal many new facts about his past, as well as insight into what may have turned him from a thief and arsonist into a sex killer.

As a child, Dugan shared several traits with other violent criminals. A chronic bed-wetter, he suffered severe headaches, tortured animals, became sexually active at an early age and showed a fascination with fire.

There’s also evidence he suffered the same kind of sexual violence in a youth home and, later, while in prison, that he inflicted upon his victims.

The files paint a profile of a budding serial killer whose freedom ended in June 1985 as his random acts of violence grew. Those who knew Brian Dugan back then say he may have been just getting started.

Seeds of mayhem

Brian James Dugan was born Sept. 23, 1956, in Nashua, N.H., the second of five children.

If a family tale is true, two siblings told the FBI, even his first seconds were traumatic.

He emerged before the delivery doctor arrived. Attempting to delay his birth, a nurse and intern pushed his head back into his mother’s womb and strapped her legs together.

The family questioned whether Dugan suffered brain damage as a result because, from the time he could sit up, he banged his head against his crib. His headaches were followed by severe vomiting. He remained on medication until his early teens for the headaches and allergies.

At 8, Dugan and one of his younger brothers burned down their garage in Nashua while playing with matches - the first of several arsons. He also knocked out some of his brother’s teeth while roughhousing in a clubhouse.

His parents, James and Genevieve “Jenny” Dugan, moved their daughter and four sons to Lisle in 1967. They later lived in Aurora and Batavia.

Dugan was a bed wetter, his siblings and mother reported, as was his father, even as an adult. Brian’s bedroom wreaked of urine. As punishment, he was forced to sleep in soiled sheets.

But his mother described a normal childhood in a June 9, 1985, interview with two FBI agents in her Addison home. She said Brian liked to read and play sports, especially baseball, in which he excelled and his father coached.

Dugan attended Lisle High School and then Aurora East, but he quit at 16. He told the FBI he later obtained a GED in prison.

Jenny Dugan said her son’s problems began in high school, after his first arrest in 1972 for burglary. He was 15. His crimes continued, and Dugan became well known to police as a petty thief and drug user.

But on April 21, 1974, Dugan was accused of trying to abduct a 10-year-old girl named Barbara near the Lisle train station. The charges later were dropped on a legal technicality.

Dugan’s only sister, Hilary Burr, met with agents June 26, 1985 in an FBI car in Itasca. She recalled a spot of the girl’s blood, from a nosebleed, on his silver jacket.

Hilary and Brian’s brother, Steven Dugan, described a rough household. Both their parents had been alcoholics.

Their father, James, a salesman, was on the road a lot. He gradually “lost it,” Steven reported, and began to drink heavily. He died in 1975 of liver cirrhosis.

Jenny Dugan was the disciplinarian. Once, after she caught Brian and Steven with matches, he said, she made them hold a lit one until it burned their fingers. If they were bad, she’d force feed them hot sauce or whip them, but they denied serious abuse.

She died several years later, after Brian Dugan’s 1985 arrest.

An imprisoned Brian missed both of his parents’ funerals - something he later told police troubled him.

Abused in prison?

Jenny Dugan told FBI agents she didn’t think her son capable of anything beyond “thievery.” His siblings suggested otherwise.

In their interviews, Hilary and Steven - closest in age to Brian - both said they thought he could have killed Melissa Ackerman.

If he did, Hilary said, “he should get the death penalty.”

There was no love lost between the two, especially after Dugan in 1975 busted the lights of her car, threatened to kill her and “chop up” her son, in a dispute documented both by the FBI and police reports.

Steven Dugan, two years Brian’s junior and the closest to him, was not initially as forthcoming with the FBI. At Hilary’s urging, he spoke to agents again, on June 26, 1985, after his brother had been officially charged with killing Melissa.

He told them Brian was often cruel to family pets and, at 13, claimed he poured gasoline on a cat and lit it on fire.

“He laughed and thought it was really great,” Steven said.

He said his brother lost his virginity at 13 and had an affair as a teen with an older, married woman, the wife of one of Brian’s friends.

Steven also said Brian tried to molest him once in their bathroom in 1972, shortly after his release from a youth home. Steven suspected his brother had been sexually assaulted there, and, years later, a tearful Dugan suggested he was attacked at Menard Correctional Center between 1979 and 1982.

According to the FBI files, Brian Dugan told his brother: “If you were in prison, as my brother, you are just another pound of meat. I couldn’t help you. You’d have to make it or break it on your own. You have to submit to it or die.”

Steven said his brother often got him into trouble when they were teens. Later, he distanced himself from Brian, serving in the Marines and settling down with a family and work.

Steven offered his own confession to the FBI. It had been gnawing at him, he said. He told them he lied for Brian in Kane County court when offering a false alibi for a 1982 attempted assault on a gas station attendant in Aurora. At the time, Steven said, he believed his brother’s innocence.

Jenny Dugan said she often bailed out Brian, but later cut him off, too.

“She stated she never received even as much as a thanks for all that she was doing for him,” an FBI agent wrote in a June 9, 1985 interview. “She stated that through the years it got to be such a burden that she told him that he was on his own and that she did not want anything further to do with him.”

The FBI files capture the Dugan family in crisis.

Hilary’s husband was dying. Jenny Dugan was facing heart surgery. A brother was in the midst of divorce. Another was in jail for a property crime.

Despite all that, the family managed a rare get-together at Jenny Dugan’s home Christmas Day 1984. Brian also attended.

His mother told the FBI she didn’t hear from him again until May 26, 1985 - a week before Melissa Ackerman’s murder - when he called and apologized for all the trouble he had caused her over the years.

Jenny Dugan said she invited Brian for dinner. He was supposed to call back.

He didn’t.

‘I don’t want to die’

Many of those who interviewed Brian Dugan say he is in that group of cold-blooded killers who lack a conscience and strike at random.

Often, he detailed the murders as if swatting a fly, without showing a hint of remorse. Hours after Melissa was murdered, Brian and Steven visited; Brian spoke casually about some new plants he bought.

Their sister, Hilary, told the FBI she doubted Brian could feel sorry for anyone but himself.

But is he a serial killer?

The accepted definition is anyone who has killed at least twice, experts say, with a cooling off period in between.

Robert D. Keppel is a former Seattle, Wash., homicide detective, author and criminal justice professor who is best known for his work tracking serial killers Ted Bundy and Gary Ridgway, also known as the Green River Killer. In fact, his frequent interviews with Bundy helped inspire the novel “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“All serial killers are different, that’s the hard part,” Keppel said in a telephone interview.

“The two key words for a serial killer are ‘opportunity’ and ‘control,’ and once they answer ‘yes’ to both questions without being caught, they act.”

He added: “Remorse isn’t a word in their backgrounds. The only remorse they have is the fact they got caught.”

Unlike some killers who methodically plan, Dugan acted on pure opportunity. He did attempt to cover up his crimes afterward, though. For example, Melissa’s body was found hidden under rocks.

The FBI files also contain a few of Dugan’s mental exams from prison - evaluations done before he killed.

One expert recommended he be placed in protective custody, after describing Dugan as immature, feminine and “extremely unstable,” with a poor self-image.

Another expert pegged him as a “sensation-addicted” neurotic, who drank alcohol and smoked marijuana to lessen his inhibitions before the crimes.

In the FBI files, on the day of his arrest for killing Melissa, the authorities tried to push his buttons. They placed the horrific crime-scene photos on a table before him.

Dugan averted his eyes, stared straight ahead and said, “I don’t want to look at those pictures, I don’t want to think about that.”

He was told that the parents of Melissa Ackerman had no other children. The person who had kidnapped, raped and murdered her had caused them “overwhelming anguish.”

He replied: “I just don’t want to think about that.”

Later, Dugan confided that he was extremely fearful of the death penalty, in that same conversation in the FBI files, saying, “I don’t want to die.”

Theoretically, Dugan could be sentenced to die for Jeanine Nicarico’s murder, for which he awaits trial.

Years ago, he informally confessed to killing Jeanine during plea negotiations for the Schnorr and Ackerman slayings. But he wanted a guarantee of immunity from the death penalty for a formal confession - a deal prosecutors to this day refuse to make.

In the meantime, three other men were charged with Jeanine’s murder; two of them were repeatedly convicted and served years on death row until the best-known defendant, Rolando Cruz, was acquitted during his third trial in 1995.

Cruz’s nearly decade-long stay on death row was highlighted by former Gov. George Ryan as he ordered a moratorium in 2000 on Illinois executions. Other murderers since have been sentenced to death, but a serious attempt to reinstate executions hasn’t been mounted.

Thus, Jeanine, alleged to be Dugan’s first murder victim, remains the last chance that he could get the death penalty.

On a binge

The 10-year-old Naperville girl was home sick from school on Feb. 25, 1983, when she vanished. Her body was found two days later near the Illinois Prairie Path. She had been sexually assaulted and bludgeoned to death.

Nearly 17 months later, Dugan spotted Donna Schnorr sitting alone in her car at a stoplight early July 15, 1984, on Randall Road near Aurora.

After running the Geneva nurse’s car off the road, he beat, raped and drowned her in a Kane County quarry.

He laid low for almost a year. Then, Brian Dugan went on a binge. As part of his plea deal, he admitted committing the following crimes:

• On May 6, 1985, after helping a 21-year-old North Aurora woman start her car, he pushed his way inside, flashed a hunting knife, gagged and blindfolded her. Then he drove her to Batavia and raped her in the back seat. She survived.

• As a 19-year-old Geneva woman walked along Route 31 on May 28, Dugan tried to force her into his car. She escaped.

• The next day, Dugan forced a 16-year-old girl into his car in Aurora after threatening her with a tire iron. He drove her to Will County, where he wrapped a belt around her neck and raped her, then took her home.

A few days later, 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman would not be as lucky. In his confession, five months later, Dugan didn’t offer much insight.

He said: “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.”

Ed Cisowski, a retired 23-year state police lieutenant, interviewed Dugan a half-dozen times in the mid-1980s.

“He was cold and matter-of-fact, but never remorseful,” said Cisowski, of Naperville. “His crimes were impulsive. He was an opportunist who was all about power and control.”

Where he belongs

Dugan hasn’t walked as a free man since summer 1985 when he was 28 - 13 years after his first burglary arrest.

One day after Melissa’s abduction, at 6:45 a.m. he pulled his blue Gremlin into the parking lot of Midwest Hydraulics, where he worked as a machine operator. Dugan found himself surrounded by a virtual SWAT team of FBI, local, county and state police.

He had emerged as a suspect after a police officer in a town next to Somonauk recalled encountering an out-of-town motorist with an expired vehicle sticker. His car matched a description provided from Melissa’s friend, who got away.

Police kept Dugan in custody for one of the recent unsolved rapes and, weeks later, after Melissa’s body was found and he was linked through physical evidence - a strand of her hair on his sleeping bag - he was charged with her murder.

Shortly later, Dugan admitted killing Melissa and Schnorr in exchange that his own life be spared. He got his wish. Dugan has spent the past 21 years in prison, serving a life sentence.

At 50, Brian Dugan will never again live outside the impenetrable prison walls that surround him. Years ago, those who knew him best, including his family, told the FBI that’s where he belongs.

His siblings, with whom he long ago lost contact, described a lifetime of violence in the old FBI files - which begs the question:

Would he have continued to kill if not caught?

Cisowski is certain.

“Absolutely,” he said. “I don’t think he could stop himself.”


Dugan sister says she'd be 'happy to pull the switch'

March 1, 2006

Serial killer Brian Dugan's sister has an answer for those debating whether he should get the death penalty: Dugan deserves it.

"If, in fact, he is given the death penalty, I'd be happy to pull the switch," Hilary Burr, Dugan's older sister, said last week. "He is a cold-blooded killer. I don't think he understands what it means to cause anyone pain or anguish."

Dugan's indictment in November for the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico, 10, of Naperville, has started a debate over whether a costly trial is an unnecessary expense for a convict who already is in prison for life.

Burr, though, has no doubt it is worth it.

"My recurring nightmare is that he would get out of jail," she said. "He really and truly has no respect for life, for joy, for anything good."

Dugan is serving a life term for the 1980s murders of Donna Schnorr, 27, of Geneva, and Melissa Ackerman, 7, of Somonauk, and three sex attacks.

He has said out of court that he also killed Jeanine, but defense lawyers probably will argue those statements cannot be used against him because they were made as part of a plea bargaining process.

Burr said that, in July 1975, Dugan threatened to "chop up" her son, then about 2, and his baby-sitter when Burr refused to let him transport stolen items in her car.

Three days later, he threatened her again and kicked out the headlights of her car so she couldn't drive to her Villa Park apartment in the dark, but he was promptly arrested by an off-duty Aurora police officer for breaking into a different car.

Dugan, who then was out on bond on Kane County charges of criminal damage to property, later pleaded guilty to setting fire to a Villa Park school under a deal in which charges of assaulting his sister and burglarizing the school were dropped.

He served less than seven months of a one- to three-year prison term. Later, he went to prison for good in 1985.

"I am sorry that I let him into my life when I got into my 20s," Burr said. "I knew there was something wrong with him. I tried to help him, and I learned my lesson."

After Jeanine Nicarico was murdered in February 1983, DuPage County authorities charged three other men — Aurorans Rolando Cruz, Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley — with the crime. Buckley's trial ended in a hung jury, but Cruz and Hernandez were sentenced to death in 1985.

Later that year, Dugan said he alone was Jeanine's killer. Charges against Buckley were dropped in 1987, and Cruz and Hernandez were freed in 1995.

Defense lawyers have said that Dugan's willingness to come forward on behalf of other men who might have been executed for a crime they didn't commit should be enough to spare him from the death penalty, despite the brutality of his attacks.

Last week, DuPage Public Defender Robert Miller gave a letter to the DuPage County Board Judicial and Public Safety Committee, saying he would not immediately seek additional funding to defend the "voluminous and time-consuming case."

However, he said, that means the case — which includes some 200,000 pages of documents — will require "patience."

Miller also said he might get assistance from the state appellate defender's office and the state's capital litigation trust fund.


Convicted Murderer Indicted For Nicarico Slaying

10-Year-Old Girl Was Abducted, Raped And Murdered

CBS2Chicago.com

Nov 30, 2005

Convicted murderer Brian Dugan was indicted Tuesday for the 1983 abduction, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville, the DuPage County state's attorney said.

The 15-count indictment against Dugan, 49, is the latest development in a 22-year-old case that put Illinois' capital punishment system under a national spotlight after two men who were convicted of the crime and sent to death row were freed years later.

"The past is the past. We're going forward. This indictment is about the evidence available now, today," DuPage County State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said at a press conference to announce the indictment.

CBS 2's Chief Correspondent Jay Levine talked exclusively with the investigator who says Dugan confessed to the Nicarico murder two decades ago in chilling detail.

Dugan was a suspect from the beginning, already serving life sentences for two murders when a state police investigator first questioned him.

"He was the coldest human being I ever met. He described three murders without showing a bit of emotion," said former state police investigator Ed Cisowski.

Sitting across from Dugan, listening to the 1985 jailhouse confession, Cisowski was convinced that Dugan, not Rolando Cruz or Alex Hernandez, murdered Jeanine Nicarico.

"He described Jeanine's hair being short and it had been cut just recently. He described interior of the house. He had facts that were not public," Cisowski said.

But there was a catch to that confession, which Dugan's attorney said could have saved everyone time, money and anguish.

"The case could be settled on a question of who did what to whom with a guilty plea and that could be done relatively cheaply and frankly that could only be done if there were a sentence for life," said attorney Thomas McCulloch.

The same deal Dugan offered decades ago, excluding the death penalty, which today Jeanine's mother rejects.

"It's the only sentence that's appropriate. The only way we'll really know," Patricia Nicarico said.

Birkett said he would pursue the death penalty against Dugan if he got a conviction in the case.

"Jeanine's murder was the result of exceptionally brutal or heinous behavior indicative of wanton cruelty," he said.

Nicarico was home alone from school recovering from the flu on Feb. 25, 1983, when she was abducted, leaving no sign but fingernail scratches on the wall near the kicked-in front door. Birkett said Tuesday that Dugan raped and bludgeoned the girl to death. Her body was later found in a nature preserve.

McCulloch, Dugan's defense attorney since 1985, said Dugan would "probably enter a plea of not guilty when he's presented to the court."

"I'm saddened but not surprised," McCulloch said of the indictment. "I think it's a terrible waste of time and energy. I wish they spent their time and money elsewhere."

McCulloch said he has not spoken with Dugan in several months but probably would meet with him in the next day or two to discuss the charges.

Patricia Nicarico is still not sure in her own mind that Cruz and Hernandez didn't play a role; though appeals courts and DNA evidence have cleared them -- the same DNA evidence, which appears to definitively link Dugan.

Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez were convicted of the crime and condemned to death in 1985, but appeals courts over the following decade twice reversed the convictions. Cruz was acquitted during a third trial in 1995 after spending almost a decade on death row, and prosecutors later dropped the charges against Hernandez.

Dugan emerged as the chief suspect only after Cruz's acquittal, even though prosecutors said he confessed to the crime during a 1985 interview with his attorney. He is currently serving a life term at Pontiac Correctional Center for the unrelated rapes and murders of a 7-year-old girl and a 27-year-old woman.

Dugan refused to make a formal confession because prosecutors at the time refused to rule out the death penalty in return for a guilty plea.

Seven DuPage County prosecutors and law officers were charged in 1996 with lying and fabricating evidence against Cruz in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to railroad Cruz for the crime. All seven were cleared in 1999 after a high-profile trial.

Over the years, Cruz's case became a cause for death penalty opponents. His release was followed by a string of similar, highly publicized cases -- a dozen men sentenced to death have been freed in Illinois since 1977 after questions about their guilt arose.

That led former Gov. George Ryan in 2000 to halt executions in Illinois and to propose an overhaul of the death penalty system. Gov. Rod Blagojevich has continued the moratorium on executions.

The same jury that originally convicted Cruz and Hernandez in 1985 failed to reach a verdict against a third man charged in the crime, Stephen Buckley. Charges against him were dropped in 1987.

Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley later sued DuPage County, saying they were wrongfully prosecuted. They settled the lawsuits for $3.5 million in September 2000.


Hair evidence may lead to Dugan

September 24, 2004

A report on a hair abnormality that has been gathering dust for 16 years is getting new attention from authorities investigating serial killer Brian Dugan's role in the 1983 murder of Jeanine Nicarico (10) of Naperville.

Several DNA tests since 1988 already have linked Dugan to the slaying, and he has said outside of court that he alone committed the crime, but he has never been charged. Defense lawyers would probably fight to keep the tests and the statements out of court should he be indicted.

In a 1988 report, unidentified hair strands found on the victim's body and on a blindfold had a rare abnormality also found in samples taken from Dugan.

The report was part of post-conviction proceedings for two other men, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, who had been sentenced to death for the crime but who later were freed. The proceedings were abandoned in 1988 after the Illinois Supreme Court -- in a separate legal procedure -- overturned Cruz and Hernandez's convictions for other reasons.

Although Dugan has said he alone was the killer, he has been unwilling to testify about his role without immunity from the death penalty. In 1995, a DNA test linked him to the crime, and in 2002 DuPage authorities said a new, more accurate test also had done so. Dugan is in prison for life for two other murders.

An indictment may follow this fall.


SEX: M  RACE: W  TYPE: N  MOTIVE: Sex.

MO: Rape-slayer of female victims age seven to 27.

DISPOSITION: Life term on two counts, 1985.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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