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Nancy Rish, Convicted In High-Profile 1987 Murder In Kankakee, To Be Released From Prison After Having Sentence Reduced

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nancy Rish has maintained her innocence in the high-profile murder of a businessman nearly 35 years ago in Kankakee, and now she is about to get out of prison.

As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Tuesday, a law allowing domestic violence to apply for reduced sentences is the reason. The law allowed Rish's lawyers to ask a judge to take another look at her life sentence – with new information about how her years of abuse may have contributed to her actions.

"I hold so much grief and sorrow for his family and his loved ones to this very day, and will always," Rish, 59, said remorsefully.

She made those remarks Tuesday, the same day she learned she really would be getting out of prison this year instead of dying behind bars.

"My most sincere and deepest apology for the most regrettable mistake of my life," Rish said.

Rish has been locked up since being convicted of the 1987 kidnapping and murder of Kankakee businessman Stephen Small.

Danny Edwards, Rish's boyfriend at the time, is serving a life sentence for luring Small to a house he was renovating, putting him in a 6-foot-by-3-foot plywood box, and burying him alive – for ransom money. From the beginning, Rish said she had no idea what Edwards was up to when she drove him to and from the crime scene locations.

"I did not knowingly participate in this crime that took the life of Stephen Small," Rish said. "However, I do take responsibility for my actions."

Rish's attorneys petitioned the court for a reduced sentence – using a 2016 law allowing defendants to challenge a sentence if they can prove they were victims of domestic abuse at the time, and none of that evidence was presented at trial.

"Experts agree that the effects of domestic violence last a lifetime," said Rish'a attorney, Margaret Byrne.

Byrne said 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."

Byrne said Rish has also been a model prisoner – another reason prosecutors agreed to the sentence reduction from natural life to 70 years. She will be out in September, with good behavior credit.

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul co-sponsored that law when he was still a state senator. However, he did not believe Rish's case met the standards of that law.

He had no comment on Rish's reduced sentence on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the victim, Small, left behind a wife and three sons. Kozlov was not able to locate his family for contact Tuesday.

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