Daily Herald
Dugan says he tried to confess in '85 to Nicarico slaying
By Christy Gutowski | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/28/2009 9:54 AM | Updated: 8/28/2009 8:56 PM

After decades of public silence, Brian Dugan apparently wants to be heard.

Dugan typed a jailhouse letter Aug. 16 explaining what he said was his real motivation for admitting he alone killed a 10-year-old Naperville schoolgirl decades ago.

The letter, addressed to unspecified media and later obtained through Daily Herald sources, was written about a month before members of a jury will be selected to decide whether he lives or dies for the murder of Jeanine Nicarico on Feb. 25, 1983.

"I don't deserve much, probably not anything at all," Dugan wrote, "but I think everyone is entitled to the truth, no matter where it leads."

"My main motivations in pleading guilty (in Jeanine's murder) was to take responsibility for these crimes, express my remorse and for the truth to finally emerge. The truth includes the lies, fabrications and conviction of three innocent men."

Dugan, 52, has been serving two life prison terms since his Nov. 19, 1985, guilty plea for two murders - both of which came after Jeanine's slaying - and a series of unrelated sex attacks.

It was during those plea talks that Dugan first offered to admit guilt in Jeanine's slaying, but only if prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.

They refused then, and their successors still do now.

So Dugan took a gamble in a July 28 guilty plea with the hope a jury will show him mercy and spare his life because he accepted responsibility. Dugan also prepared a public letter of apology during his plea.

Dugan's latest letter focuses largely on a little-known, four-page handwritten confession dated Nov. 1, 1985, in which the former Aurora man detailed facts about Jeanine's abduction, rape and murder.

Dugan said he wrote it then to clear two other men wrongly convicted in the case. Those men - Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez - endured multiple trials, death sentences and about a decade in prison before their exonerations. A third man, Stephen Buckley, was never retried after his first trial ended in a hung jury.

The exonerations led to the indictment of seven former DuPage County law enforcement officials who, in the summer of 1999, were found innocent of conspiring to frame Cruz.

Prosecutors indicted Dugan in November 2005 after citing, in part, improved DNA evidence that they said linked him to the little girl's sexual assault.

"I wrote the (Nov. 1, 1985) statement in order to protect Cruz, Hernandez and Buckley in the event of my death," Dugan wrote.

"It was my intent to plead guilty from the very beginning of this prosecution," he said. "I never entered a (not guilty) plea at the arraignment, the court did. I've been telling the truth the entire time ..."

Cruz and DuPage State's Attorney Joseph Birkett have said they think Dugan's only motivation in 1985 was to save his own neck. Birkett complained about Dugan's recent letter this week to Judge George Bakalis, who also wasn't thrilled with the defendant's sudden chattiness.

"I don't want you writing letters to the press while this case is pending," Bakalis told Dugan. "Do you understand?"

Dugan said he did. He has never granted a face-to-face media interview. Bakalis also imposed an earlier gag order on the case's attorneys.

Lawyers are scheduled to begin jury selection Sept. 18 in Bakalis' courtroom.

Letter: Dugan talks about his 1985 confession