Woman convicted of burying man alive seeks freedom - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Woman convicted of burying man alive seeks freedom

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A woman convicted of kidnapping and burying a Kankakee businessman alive nearly 30 years ago is seeking a new bid for freedom.

The Illinois Prisoner Review Board is hearing a clemency petition for Nancy Rish, who has maintained she did not take part in the kidnapping and murder of Stephen Small.

The clemency hearing lasted about 40 minutes Tuesday morning, ending around 11:30 a.m.. Nancy Rish's family members and her attorney plead for mercy. But prosecutors said there is no reason to set her free.

“I feel for the Small's,” said Lori Guimond, Rish’s sister.

Guimond, breaking down in sympathy for the family of Small but also pleading for mercy from the Prisoner Review Board, told the board her sister had nothing to do with Small's 1987 kidnapping and murder.

"She doesn't have it in her to have done such a thing," Guimond added.

Rish has been behind bars since 1987, when she was arrested and then convicted of helping Danny Edwards with the gruesome kidnapping and murder. The wealthy and prominent victim was the great grandson of former Illinois Governor Len Small.

Rish was convicted of helping Edwards kidnap Small and bury him alive in a plywood box with a small pipe for air, hoping to get $1 million in ransom money. But Small suffocated.

Now, Edwards, serving a life sentence himself, is admitting in a sworn affidavit that Rish had nothing to do with the crime. Her family is hoping that will be enough to convince Governor Pat Quinn to commuter her life sentence.

Edwards also told author Jim Ridings that Rish had no role in the murder, which led to this new push for her freedom.

"He tells me flat out, that he did it all by himself," Ridings said.

Edwards said that his girlfriend never knew why he was building a 6 by 3 by 3 plywood box.

"He told her it was for pool supplies, why, no one would think he was building it to bury someone in." said Margaret Byrne, Rish's attorney.

"She was just a victim of circumstance, you know, she was just with a terrible guy, you know, a terrible boyfriend," said Benjamin Rish, her son.

Assistant Attorney General Erin O'Collell said, "If this is horrible enough to bring tears to Nancy Rish's family, imagine what it did to Stephen Small's family."

Rish's mother also testified Tuesday. No members of the Small family were present at the hearing, although they submitted six letters to the Prisoner Review Board, opposing any clemency.

One of the letters from Small's widow wrote, "I continue to have nightmares and wake gasping for breath."

The Prisoner Review Board will make a recommendation to Governor Quinn. He'll make the final decision in the case. There is no timetable for a ruling on the petition.

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