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Alleged Framing Victim Testifies

Crime: Man accused of murder denies having 'dream,' says detective directed him to lie. Seven officials are charged with perjury, other misconduct.

April 15, 1999|From Reuters

WHEATON, Ill. — A man allegedly framed by police and prosecutors for the 1983 rape and murder of a 10-year-old girl testified Wednesday that he never told authorities he had a "dream" about the crime.

Rolando Cruz, testifying for the first time in public about the case, said a DuPage County Sheriff's detective had directed him to lie about how three other men had used a baseball bat to bash the girl's head in.

Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the kidnapping, rape and murder of Jeanine Nicarico, reiterated under questioning by a special prosecutor that he never had a "dream" or "vision" about the crime, which prosecutors ultimately used as a confession to convict him and send him to Illinois' death row for a decade.

Four current sheriff's officers and three former prosecutors, including one who is now a judge, are charged with obstructing justice, perjury, and official misconduct for allegedly framing Cruz in two murder trials in 1985 and 1990.

Both convictions were overturned on technicalities, and he was exonerated at a third trial in 1995 when the prosecution evidence came into doubt.

The "dream" statement at issue was Cruz's supposed recounting of a dream or vision to detectives three months after Nicarico's murder in which he offered details that police said only the killer could know.

The seven current and former law enforcement officers are charged with concocting Cruz's supposed dream statement, or with covering up evidence that another man probably committed the crime.

Prosecutor William Kunkle asked Cruz about what he had told detectives Thomas Vosburgh and Dennis Kurzawa, both defendants, and why he had implicated three other men in Nicarico's murder.

Cruz testified he never had a "dream" or "vision" about Nicarico's murder, and never told detectives that he did. He said he did tell the detectives that three men against whom he had grudges committed the brutal crime.

"I knew they knew I was lying. They told me they knew I was lying," Cruz said.

He said Kurzawa had stopped a tape-recording of Cruz's accusations against the three to direct him to say they used a baseball bat, not a stick as Cruz had said, to bash the girl's skull in.

As to why he concocted the story to frame the three men, Cruz said he resented them and the police.

"I didn't like a lot of cops back then," Cruz said, noting that a cousin had drowned in 1979 while running from police.

Defense attorney Terry Ekl said outside the courtroom that Cruz's inability to tell the truth would be exposed when he is cross-examined today. Ekl, who is representing former prosecutor Thomas Knight, said Cruz has told differing tales about the case to the FBI and to the grand jury.

"We've been anxious for 2 1/2 years [to question Cruz in court] and after his testimony today I think we're all salivating," Ekl told reporters.

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