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Timeline of Nicarico murder investigation, trials
Daily Herald Staff Report

Jeanine Nicarico


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Published: 7/22/2009 4:32 PM | Updated: 10/5/2009 11:37 AM

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Feb. 25, 1983: Jeanine Nicarico, 10, is dragged from her house, sexually assaulted and killed. Her body is found two days later near the Illinois Prairie Path.

March 9, 1984: Three men, Rolando Cruz of Wheaton and Alejandro Hernandez and Stephen Buckley, both of Aurora, are indicted for the murder by DuPage County State's Attorney J. Michael Fitzsimmons. Two successors, Jim Ryan and Anthony Peccarelli, would continue the prosecution for years.

July 15: Geneva nurse Donna Schnorr, 27, is abducted, raped and killed.

Feb. 22, 1985: Cruz and Hernandez are convicted. Buckley's trial ends in a hung jury, and prosecutors later decide not to pursue the case. Shortly later, Cruz and Hernandez sentenced to death penalty.

June 2: Melissa Ackerman, 7, of Somonauk, is raped and killed. Her body is found June 17 in a drainage ditch.

June 3: Brian Dugan, of Aurora, arrested for several unrelated attacks. He is charged June 25 with the Ackerman murder; also a suspect in Schnorr's death.

Nov. 8: Dugan's public defender tells LaSalle County prosecutors his client may have connection to Schnorr and Nicarico murders. Dugan says he'll only confess to having killed Jeanine if promised his life will be spared. Prosecutors, who deem some of his statements unreliable, refuse to bargain.

Nov. 19: Dugan gets two life sentences after pleading guilty to Ackerman and Schnorr murders.

March 1986: Authorities exhume Jeanine's body to corroborate elements of Dugan's story.

July 30, 1987: An inmate at Pontiac Correction Center stabs Dugan nine times with a homemade knife in a prison corridor. The inmate said Dugan was bragging about the Ackerman murder. He survives.

Jan. 19, 1988: Illinois Supreme Court overturns the Cruz and Hernandez convictions, saying the pair should have been tried separately.

Feb. 1, 1990: Cruz is convicted for a second time and sentenced to death. Three months later, Hernandez is retried in Bloomington. A hung jury forces a mistrial.

May 17, 1991: Hernandez is convicted at a third trial.

Dec. 4, 1992: Illinois Supreme Court affirms Cruz's conviction, death sentence.

May 28, 1993: Supreme Court does an about-face and grants Cruz a rehearing.

July 14, 1994: Supreme Court overturns Cruz's second conviction.

Jan. 30, 1995: An appellate court overturns Hernandez's second murder conviction and orders a new trial.

Nov. 3: DuPage County Circuit Judge Ronald Mehling acquits Cruz after hearing two weeks of testimony from prosecution witnesses in a third trial.

Dec. 8: Judge drops charges against Hernandez.

June 27: Sheriff's internal investigation finds no wrongdoing by police and prosecutors. Grand jury begins investigation of Cruz prosecution.

Oct 1: Joseph Birkett, a longtime local prosecutor, is named DuPage County State's Attorney.

Dec. 12: A grand jury indicts seven law enforcement officials, dubbed the DuPage 7. They are accused of trying to frame Cruz; charges include official misconduct, obstruction of justice and perjury.

May 13, 1999: Judge frees two of DuPage 7, cites insufficient evidence.

June 4: Final defendants in DuPage 7 trial found not guilty.

Sept. 26, 2000: In a 14-9 vote, DuPage County Board agrees to settle lawsuits filed by Cruz and his two former co-defendants for $3.5 million.

Nov. 5, 2002: Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, the former DuPage County State's Attorney, loses bid for governor; Birkett loses bid for attorney general. Their opponents cite Nicarico case for criticism.

Dec. 19: Gov. George Ryan pardons Cruz, weeks before granting blanket clemency to all of Illinois' death row inmates. Earlier, Birkett had released new forensic DNA results that conclusively show Dugan, not Cruz, as Jeanine's rapist. Ryan highlights the Nicarico case as an example of why the state's judicial system is broken.

Nov. 29, 2005: Grand jury indicts Brian Dugan in Jeanine's murder.

Jan. 18, 2006: Dugan pleads innocent when arraigned during his first court appearance.

July 28, 2009: Dugan pleads guilty to killing Jeanine Nicarico.

Oct. 6, 2009: Dugan's death penalty sentencing hearing begins.