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Dugan goes on trial in January for Nicarico murder
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

Brian J. Dugan


Jeanine Nicarico


Melissa Ackerman


Robert A. Thorud


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Published: 3/13/2008 5:03 PM | Updated: 3/13/2008 9:03 PM

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Imprisoned killer Brian Dugan may face a jury next year in the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico of Naperville.

A preliminary Jan. 20 trial date was set Thursday during a closed-door case management conference with the judge, lawyers said afterward.

Dugan, 51, has been in prison serving life terms since 1985 after pleading guilty to two other sex slayings. In October 1986, he took part in three recorded interviews with Robert Thorud, a state police expert, who was studying sexual predators.

On Thursday, DuPage Circuit Judge George Bakalis specified what parts of the recorded statements were admissible.

Bakalis barred prosecutors from using remarks about the murder of a Geneva nurse and other unrelated sexual attacks, but a jury will be allowed to hear Dugan describe how he abducted, raped and drowned a 7-year-old girl in Somonauk, which is 25 miles southwest of Aurora.

The defense team argued the horrific details were too prejudicial, but prosecutors said it's relevant.

"Yes, it's graphic," DuPage State's Attorney Joseph Birkett said. "Yes, it's terrible. But the crime was graphic and his behavior was terrible."

In the tapes, Dugan does not name 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico, who was abducted, raped and killed Feb. 25, 1983, but he does make remarks such as "when I did the others."

Bakalis allowed some of the remarks. For example, in one statement, Dugan said he'd like to talk about it but can't because he is not protected legally and does not want to face the death penalty.

The tapes were not played in court, but lawyers read excerpts in court from a printed transcript.

Dugan is serving two life prison terms for killing Melissa Ackerman, 7, in June 1985 in Somonauk, and Geneva nurse Donna Schnorr in July 1984.

Birkett said he will pursue the death penalty if Dugan is convicted of killing Jeanine Nicarico. Dugan claimed sole responsibility for her murder during 1985 protected plea talks for the other two slayings, but prosecutors didn't pursue it because he said he'd only confess if his life was spared.

Meanwhile, three other men were charged and later cleared, but not before two spent a decade on death row. Seven officials were acquitted of railroading one of the men. The county settled their lawsuits for $3.5 million.

Then, more than two years ago, on Nov. 29, 2005, prosecutors indicted Dugan for Jeanine's murder, citing, in part, improved DNA evidence -- semen and hair -- they said implicates him.

Dugan is being held without bond in the DuPage County jail.