Chicago newspapers are buzzing with the news that Brian Dugan finally confessed to the 1983 killing of Naperville's Jeanine Nicarico, a big-eyed, dimple-smiled fifth grader who had a lifetime ahead of her. At 10-years old, she was brutally raped and murdered. Dugan is finally admitting to the crime in an effort to save his own skin. He is presently serving two life sentences for the death of 27-year-old Donna Schnorr of Geneva and 7-year-old Melissa Ackerman of Somonauk. If anyone ever deserves the death penalty, it is Brian Dugan.
The Nicarico case was haunting, on so many levels. I remember when the story broke. I was a young mother with two small children. I once lived in a neighboring town to Naperville where the Nacarico's lived. I knew the area. Knowing that I drove the same streets where this monster committed this heinous act caused me to feel personally violated.
In general, were were all more innocent then -- as a society we weren't yet desensitized to the taking of a human life. The murder of the child just punctuated the hideous nature of murder.
This case couldn't help but invoke anguish and empathy for everyone involved. The mere mention of Jeanine Nicarico's name is enough to bring back all those feelings. What must the last moments of her life been like? Losing a child evokes the worst loss, but how have her parents been able to cope?
Unimaginable suffering has been experienced by family, friends, neighbors, an entire community, as well as all of society.
Following the initial incident and so many court appearances, charges were wrongly brought by an overzealous prosecutor. Two men faced the death penalty but were later cleared, revealing major flaws in the criminal justice system. Bad politics became entangled in this case resulting in a moratorium on the death penalty evoked by an ex-governor whose home address is now that of a federal penitentiary. It is nearly impossible to count the tragedies associated with this case in its 26 year duration. And the worst case of all, is that few lessons have been learned as yet.