WHEATON, Ill. (CBS) — Ground has been broken for the new Jeanine Nicarico Advocacy Center in Wheaton.
As WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports, the new building at the DuPage Government Center off County Farm Road will be where police and prosecutors investigate crimes against children, in a setting made to put young people at ease.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports
The facility is named for Jeanine Nicarico, who was 10 years old when she was abducted from her Naperville home, raped and killed, in February 1983.
Her mother, Pat Nicarico welcomes the tribute.
“It’s very appropriate. She was a very sensitive little girl and cared about other children. She would reach out to children in her class if they needed help, or any little child that needed help, she was always there for them,” Pat Nicarico said. “And I really feel that her spirit will be part of building, and be there with the children, and help them; protect them.”
DuPage County State’s Attorney Bob Berlin says Jeanine’s name will live on as a symbol of the county’s dedication to children.
Jeanine had stayed home from school with the flu on Feb. 25, 1983, when someone dragged her out of her Naperville home and sexually assaulted her before taking her life. Her body was found two days later in a nearby forest preserve.
In 1984, three men – Rolando Cruz, Alejandro Hernandez, and Stephen Buckley – were charged with the rape and murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico in Naperville the year before.
A jury deadlocked on Buckley, and charges against him were later dropped. But Cruz and Hernandez were convicted and sentenced to death in March 1985.
They won a new trial three years later and Hernandez was sentenced to 80 years in prison, but Cruz was sentenced to death again. Meanwhile, prosecutors declined to look into a claim by another man, Brian Dugan, who claimed to have killed Jeanine.
But the case pressed on, and allegations swirled that authorities had concocted evidence against Cruz and his co-defendants. At a third trial ending in 1995, Cruz was acquitted after a sheriff’s lieutenant reversed prior testimony. Charges against Hernandez were dropped, and three DuPage County prosecutors and four sheriff’s deputies were charged with concocting evidence. All were acquitted.
It was the fallout from the Cruz prosecution that led in large part to Ryan declaring a moratorium on the death penalty in 2000. Last year, Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation to abolish the death penalty in Illinois altogether.
Cruz was pardoned by then-Gov. George Ryan in 2002. Dugan pleaded guilty and was sentenced to death, although the sentence was commuted to life in prison through the death penalty ban.