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Prosecutors and police in 13-year-old murder case could face prison

December 13, 1996

WHEATON, Ill. (AP) _ The evidence that sent two men to death row was fabricated, and information that could have freed them was concealed, according to an indictment against three former prosecutors and four sheriff’s investigators.

The indictments by a special grand jury, announced Thursday, charged all seven with conspiring to railroad men accused in the 1983 rape and killing of 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico. The two men were later cleared when one of the sheriff’s investigators changed his testimony.

``In a free society governed by the rule of law and a treasured constitution, there must always be a line between vigorous prosecution and official misconduct, between advocacy and unfairness,″ special prosecutor William Kunkle said. ``This indictment charges that line was crossed by seven people in one case.″

The rare charges against prosecutors for their conduct in an investigation are the latest chapter in a legal battle that has cast a shadow for more than a decade on police and prosecutors in DuPage County outside Chicago.

The indictment charges that a so-called ``vision statement″ _ in which Rolando Cruz allegedly said he dreamed about the killing and gave police details that hadn’t been made public _ was a complete fabrication.

The indictment also charges that prosecutors and the sheriff’s department concealed records of a 1985 conversation in which a defense lawyer said that his client claimed to have killed the girl by himself.

Jeanine was recuperating from the flu on Feb. 25, 1983, when she was abducted by someone who kicked in the front door of her home in Naperville, about 35 miles southwest of Chicago. Hikers found her body two days later. She had been raped, bludgeoned and dumped in the weeds of a nature preserve.

Three young men were arrested a year later. Two of them, Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, were convicted in 1985 and sentenced to death. Jurors reached no verdict on Stephen Buckley and charges against him eventually were dropped.

The case began unraveling last year during Cruz’s third trial following appeals when one of the indicted investigators, Lt. James Montesano, changed his testimony about the ``vision statement.″

Cruz was acquitted and charges against Hernandez were dropped.

The collapse of the case prompted DuPage County officials to form the special grand jury.

Among those charged were three former DuPage County assistant state’s attorneys: Robert Kilander, now a county judge; Thomas Knight, now in private practice; and Patrick King, now an assistant U.S. attorney. Also charged were four current members of the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department: Montesano, Lt. Robert Winkler and Detectives Dennis Kurzawa and Thomas Vosburgh.

``All I know is that I didn’t do anything wrong,″ Kilander said. ``I inherited a difficult case and I took my duty as a prosecutor very seriously.″

Terry E. Eckel, Knight’s lawyer, said: ``Every police officer and prosecutor in this country should be outraged ... because murderers are being made into martyrs.″

DuPage County Sheriff Richard Doria said he didn’t believe the charges, but nonetheless placed the four officers on administrative duty pending the outcome of the case.

Illinois Attorney General Jim Ryan, who was DuPage County state’s attorney throughout much of the case, said the ``former state prosecutors who served on my staff are men I respect and trust.″

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