Watch CBS News

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

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Nancy Rish has been released from prison after her sentence was reduced in the high-profile murder of a businessman nearly 35 years ago in Kankakee.

CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov confirmed that Rish was released from prison around 10:30 a.m. Thursday. Her release had been set for September, but she was given 90 days and 120 days of credit for getting her GED and Associates degree, respectively.

Rish had been sentenced to life in prison, but her sentence was reduced. A law allowing domestic violence victims 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 in an interview with Kozlov recently.

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 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."

Byrne said Rish has also been a model prisoner – another reason prosecutors agreed to the sentence reduction from natural life to 70 years. She had been due out in September with good behavior credit before her sentence was further reduced for her to be released on Thursday.

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.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.