Updated: Dec 11, 2022
Jeanine was home from school with the flu, alone. When her sister came home from school, she saw the door had been kicked in, the family dog cowering in the laundry room, and Jeanine was missing. Jeanine was found deceased two days later. She had trauma to her head, and evidence she had been raped.
Jeanine was abducted in her own home, in broad daylight.
The first two suspects charged and convicted were Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez. The third suspect is Stephen Buckley, who was released for a jury that could not reach a verdict, and was not retried. Rolando Cruz was sentenced to death. Alejandro Hernandez was sentenced to 80 years.
A man, Brian Dugan came forward claiming Jeanine's murder, and that he killed her by himself. He is already serving life for the two rapes and murders. 27-year-old Donna Schnorr on July 15, 1984, who was a nurse at Aurora, Illinois Mercy Hospital driving home after a party. Dugan followed her, ran her off the road, dragged her into his car, raped her, and murdered her.
7-year-old Melissa Ackerman on June 2, 1985 was riding her bike with a friend when Dugan spotted the girls and tried to abduct both of them. The friend got away. Melissa's body was found two weeks later in an irrigation ditch.
He refused to confess in court without taking the death penalty off the table.
It was reported that Brian Dugan accurately described Jeanine's nightshirt, the color of her furniture, the serrated tape used on her head, and where the tape was purchased, and a missing bedsheet. He directed Investigators to the Nicarico residence and to within fifty feet of where her body was found. He didn't go to work that day. A secretary blocks from the residence remembers him stopping there. Tollway workers remember seeing a vehicle that was similar to Dugans at the residence; it was missing a hubcap.
However, some of the things he stated wasn't correct. There was no link between Dugan to the other men that were charged and convicted in her murder.
DNA was tested once the technology became available in her case, excluding Cruz, and linked Dugan to Jeanine's murder. Cruz was acquitted in his third trial in 1995. Hernandez & Cruz were both exonerated. In 2005, Dugan was indicted and given the death sentence four years later. Thanks to Illinois abolishing the Death Penalty, he has been in prison, now at the Pontiac Correctional Center since 11/25/1985, and is ineligible for parole.
Jeanine's family started an organization; a memorial fund for literacy, as that was one of Jeanine's favorite things to do, was to read. http://www.nicaricoliteracyfund.org/jeanine/
Part of their annual memorial is a nighttime 5K run in her hometown Naperville, Illinois, with glow-in-the-dark clothing at the starting line, a tradition since the year after she disappeared.
In 2010, the DuPage County Board renamed their advocacy center to 'The Jeanine Nicarico Children's Advocacy Center' in her legacy.
Information accumulated by:
Los Angeles Times
NY Daily News
Find a Grave
Jeanine was buried at the Saints Peter & Paul Cemetery in Naperville, DuPage County, Illinois.