Stephen Small

Woman Convicted in 1987 Kidnapping Death Paroled From Prison

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A woman convicted in the 1987 kidnapping and death of a northern Illinois businessman was released from prison Thursday.

Nancy Rish, 60, was paroled Thursday, the Illinois Department of Corrections said.

Stephen Small of Kankakee suffocated in a plywood box he was buried in when a breathing tube running to the surface failed before a ransom could be paid.

Rish petitioned in December 2017 for a resentencing hearing so that the court could consider evidence of domestic violence. Her attorneys argued Rish was coerced by ex-boyfriend Daniel Edwards into driving him and that she was unaware of his kidnapping plan even as he had her pick him up from the remote, wooded burial site and drive him between phone booths where he made ransom calls.

Edwards is serving a life sentence for luring Small to a house he was renovating, putting him in a plywood box and burying him alive, for the ransom money.

Rish's attorneys argued her case is what Illinois legislators had in mind when they passed legislation in 2015 giving abuse victims who had been sentenced to prison for crimes a break on their sentences.

One of her attorneys, Margaret Byrne, said Rish has also been a model prisoner. She had been due to be released in September with good behavior credit before her sentence was further reduced with credit for getting her GED and associates degree.

Byrne said earlier this month that Rish was abused throughout her life by many people, including Danny Edwards.

“The reason she followed his order to pick him up in the middle of the night at an odd location was that he had threatened to kill her 8-year-old son,” Byrne said. “He had a gun. She believed he would do that.”

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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