Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

Jeanine Nicarico

Real Name: Jeanine Nicarico
Nicknames: No known nicknames
Location: Naperville, Illinois
Date: February 25, 1983


Details: On February 25, 1983, Chris Nicarico and her friends came home from school to find her front door kicked open and her younger sister, Jeanine, missing. She was sick with the flu and stayed home that day. It is believed that someone kicked the door open and abducted her. A boot print was found on it. Two more were found in the yard. A sheet and blanket were missing from one of the beds. At first, it appeared to be a robbery gone wrong. Two days later, Jeanine was found dead in a park, two miles from her home. She had been sexually assaulted and beaten to death.
A $10,000 reward was offered for any information about this case. Alex Hernandez came forward and claimed that he had been driving around and drinking with several men who claimed to have been responsible for Jeanine's murder. He had an I.Q. of 76 and was known in the neighborhood as "Crazy Alex". He named several people that he claimed were involved, but only one person, Steve Buckley, could be connected to the murder.

Steve owned a pair of boots that closely matched the print found on the Nicaricos' front door. Investigators became more suspicious of Alex, suspecting that he and Steve were both involved. They set him up with an acquaintance, "Penguino", who had been arrested for robbery. He was told to pretend to know who murdered another child. They told Alex that he was a junior deputy and would get $10,000 in reward money if he got Penguino to talk. A detective waited outside, hoping to hear Alex confess. Eventually, he bragged about being at the crime scene. He claimed that he held Jeanine down, but did not actually kill her.
Investigators drove around with Alex, hoping that he could identify the Nicarico home or the crime scene. However, he never was able to accurately identify either place. Despite this, investigators decided to follow up on the other names that Alex had given them. One was nineteen-year-old Rolando Cruz, who was unemployed at the time; he had a few minor arrests. They asked him about Alex, but he claimed that, although he knew his name, he did not know him well.
When told about the reward in this case, Rolando claimed to have some information. He and Alex both implicated themselves during their statements. On March 8, 1984, a grand jury indicted Rolando, Alex, and Steve for Jeanine's murder. Investigators expected them to turn on each other, but they did not. One investigator quit in December 1984, believing that the wrong men had been arrested.
In January 1985, Rolando and Alex were convicted of Jeanine's murder. Steve's trial ended in a hung jury and the prosecutors decided not to retry him. Rolando and Alex were both sentenced to death. Six months later, police found the body of seven-year-old Melissa Ackerman in a drainage ditch just a few miles away. Like Jeanine, she had been abducted and raped prior to death. Five days later, Brian Dugan, a man under arrest for several rapes, was charged with her murder.

Brian Dugan in 1985

In November 1985, Dugan confessed to his attorney that he had killed three people: Melissa, a nurse named Donna Schnorr, and Jeanine. An investigator gave his attorney several questions for him to ask Dugan. He asked him about the car that he was driving at the time of Jeanine's murder. He stated that he was driving a green Volare. He claimed that on the day of her murder, he did not go to work. His employer confirmed his absence. He claimed that he prowled through neighborhoods, smoking marijuana.
Sometime in the early afternoon, Dugan knocked on the Nicaricos' front door. He tried to talk to Jeanine, but she would not open it for strangers. A few seconds later, he kicked it open and abducted her. His confession completely matched the evidence. He remembered tying her up in a sheet from her bed and using it to wipe his fingerprints from the door knob. He also claimed to be wearing boots that matched the print on the door. He recalled driving her down a path into a wooded area where he raped her, beat her with a tire iron, and dumped her body.
Two witnesses backed up his story. Back in 1985, they had told police that they had seen a white man driving a green car on the afternoon of Jeanine's murder. It had almost gotten stuck turning around in a field near the murder scene. Dugan remembered seeing the men, who were tollway workers. His car also had tires that matched prints left at the crime scene.
Dugan was never charged with Jeanine's murder. In January 1988, the Supreme Court ruled that Rolando and Alex should not have been tried together. They ordered two new and separate trials for them. Two years later, on January 11, 1990, Rolando went on trial for the second time. The defense intended to prove that Dugan was the only killer. However, the prosecution claimed that if he was the killer, that Rolando and Alex were his accomplices.
An investigator testified that Rolando's cousin had told him that she had seen him and Dugan together. However, she denied this on the stand. Without direct testimony from Dugan, the defense had to depend on what the state police commander had learned about his criminal background and M.O. The prosecution objected and the judge sustained it. As a result, the jury heard almost nothing about Dugan's confession.
The prosecution argued that the footprints found outside of the Nicarico home proved that multiple people were involved in Jeanine's murder. However, it was later determined that they belonged to a woman. On Feburary 1, 1990, Rolando was again found guilty of murder and again sentenced to death.
Alex's second trial ended in a hung jury. At his third trial, he was again found guilty of murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to eighty years in prison. Dugan's confession, along with other evidence, has many believe that they are innocent. However, they remain in prison.
Suspects: Brian Dugan

Brian Dugan in 2009

Extra Notes:

Results: Solved. In 1994, Rolando's conviction was overturned again. New DNA testing excluded him and Alex. In November 1995, a judge acquitted him of Jeanine's murder. In December of that year, Alex's conviction was overturned and he was released. In 2002, Rolando was pardoned by the Illinois governor.
The new DNA tests identified semen at the crime scene as belonging to Dugan. However, it was not until 2005 that he was charged with Jeanine's murder. He was convicted and sentenced to death on November 10, 2009. However, the death penalty was ended in 2011 and he was resentenced to life in prison.