The case of serial killer and rapist Brian Dugan. Part 1.

Jason Brien.

     Brian Dugan was born in 1956 in Nashua, New Hampshire and is a convicted serial rapist and serial killer. Dugan was active in the Chicago area between 1983 and 1985. Dugan once made a claim that when he was a teenager, he was abducted and raped by serial killer John Wayne Gacy. This claim has never substantiated although authorities admit that the teenage Dugan did meet Gacy’s victim profile.


Donna Schnorr.           

In 1984, Dugan was driving around Geneva, Illinois when he observed 27-year-old Donna Schorr stopped at a red traffic light. Dugan followed Donna and eventually ran her car off the road. Dugan dragged Donna out of her car, beat and raped her and murdered her by drowning her in a nearby quarry. 

Melissa Ackerman.           

In may of 1985, Dugan went on a rampage which ultimately led to the murder of 8-year-old Melissa Ackerman. Dugan first abducted and raped 21-year-old Sharon Grajek on May 6th. The 21-year-old survived the attack. On May 28th Dugan tried, and failed, to abduct a 19-year-old woman who was walking along the road. On the 29th of May Dugan abducted and raped a 16-year-old girl. On June 2nd 1984, Dugan encountered 8-year-old Melissa Ackerman and her same aged friend, Opal Horton, whilst the two girls were out riding their bicycles. Dugan grabbed Opal and threw her in his car however she escaped as he was wrestling to get Melissa in the car. Melissa’s body was not found for several weeks. Melissa’s body was found in a creek 15 miles away. Dugan admitted to raping the young girl before drowning her in the creek.

Jeanine Nicarico.           

In 1983 in Naperville, Illinois, 10-year-old Jeanine Nicarico was at home alone suffering from the flu when she abducted. Her body was found dumped 2 miles away. Police had no leads however a 20-year-old gang member by the name of Rolando Cruz soon became a suspect after feeding police false information in order to falsely claim a $10,000 reward. Rolando and another man were convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of the young girl. In 1996, seven law enforcement officials: three prosecutors and four sheriff's deputies, were tried but acquitted of conspiring to frame Rolando Cruz.          

It was not until Brian Dugan was arrested in relation to the murder of two other young girls in 1985 that Dugan’s involvement in the murder of Jeanine was revealed. Brian gave police an unofficial confession to the murder and was hoping to use the confession as a bargaining tool to avoid the death penalty for the murders of Donna Schnorr and Melissa Ackerman. In 2008 Dugan offered to plead guilty to the murder of Jeanine if it would automatically give him a life sentence and he would not have to face a death penalty trial. 


Dugan was arrested at his workplace one day after Melissa’s abduction and disappearance. Melissa’s friend Opal had given the police a description of the vehicle used in her attempted abduction and it just so happened that Dugan had been pulled over by an officer in the area of the abduction for an out-of-date vehicle inspection sticker. This coincidental traffic stopped led Dugan to become the prime suspect for Melissa’s disappearance. Dugan was eventually charged with murder after Melissa’s body was found in the creek. Police were able to link Dugan to the murder of the young girl through physical evidence found in Dugan’s belongings. In order to avoid a death penalty trial, Dugan confessed to the murders of both Melissa Ackerman and Donna Schnorr. Brian Dugan was ultimately sentenced to two life terms in prison.           

Dugan’s trial was the first to try and use psychopathy as a legal defense to avoid the death penalty. Dugan’s defence argued that that whilst Dugan could differentiate between right and wrong, his psychopathy prevented him from being able to make the right choice. Dugan’s defence argued that Dugan should indeed be sentenced to life for his crimes but his psychopathy should exclude him from being sentenced to death.           

Part 2 will explore the legal and moral implications of psychopathy as it relates to the Brian Dugan case.


Bovsun, M. (2018). Psycho rapes and murders 10-year-old Illinois girl in 1983, cops railroad 2 innocent men. Daily News. Retrieved from 

Gregory, T., & Barnum, A.  (2009). Jeanine Nicarico Murder: Tears of Joy as Brian Dugan Gets Death Penalty. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from 

Gutowski, C., & Mills, S. (2014). Serial killer Brian Dugan gives 1st prison interview: 'I could not stop'. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from