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Ex-Inmate Testifies in Framing Case

April 15, 1999

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) _ A man released from death row was back in court to testify _ this time as the accuser against sheriff’s deputies and former prosecutors accused of railroading him.

Rolando Cruz admitted Wednesday that he repeatedly lied to detectives, but insisted he never made an incriminating statement at the center of the tangled 16-year drama.

``After listening to him today, I think we’re all salivating to get our teeth into him,″ said defense attorney Terry Ekl. Cruz’s testimony was to resume today.

Cruz, 35, spent nearly a decade on death row for the 1983 murder of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. He was acquitted in 1995 after a sheriff’s official changed key testimony, casting doubt on claims that Cruz revealed incriminating details to detectives in a statement describing a ``vision″ or ``dream″ he had about the crime.

Cruz denied making the dream statement or offering detectives details that suggested he was involved in the crime.

``Like I said, I never had a dream or vision,″ he testified. ``I never told them that, never.″

Instead, Cruz said, he offered detectives a made-up version of the crime fingering three other men. He said he repeated that story in a tape-recorded statement the next day.

Cruz testified that police knew he was making up information. And he alleged that one of the detectives stopped him during his taped statement _ when Cruz said he heard a stick was used to bludgeon the girl _ and told him to say a baseball bat was the murder weapon.

Cruz and fellow defendant Alejandro Hernandez were twice found guilty of murder, first in a joint trial in 1985 and later in separate retrials. But each verdict was overturned on appeal.

Charges against Hernandez were dropped after Cruz was acquitted, and an investigation led to charges against the law enforcement veterans.

The defendants are three former DuPage County assistant state’s attorneys: Thomas Knight, now in private practice; Patrick King, now an assistant U.S. attorney; and Robert Kilander, now a DuPage County circuit judge.

Also indicted were Detectives Dennis Kurzawa and Thomas Vosburgh and Lts. James Montesano and Robert Winkler of the sheriff’s department.

The defendants are accused of lying, creating evidence and conspiring to frame Cruz.

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