Despite that she claims she wasn’t involved in the kidnapping and murder that occurred over 20 years ago in Illinois, Nancy Rish has still served a lengthy prison sentence.

Back in 1987 in the town of Kankakee, Rish supposedly was involved in the kidnapping and murder of a man named Stephen Small. She’s since spent 27 years in prison for the crime. However, her attorney Margaret Byrne is attempting to shorten the remainder of her sentence.

Earlier this morning, Byrne spoke to the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. Alongside the attorney were Rish’s family and friends, including her sister and her mother. The attorney noted that not only did Rish have no prior criminal record before the 1987 kidnapping and murder took place, but that she’s also served her sentence in an “exemplary” fashion, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Rish, now 52, has been charged with a lifetime prison sentence following the murder. After the incident, she and her former lover Danny Edwards were both convicted in 1988 in front of a jury trial. Small had reason to be a target, as he had family in the broadcasting and publishing realms and was already one of the wealthiest in the town of Kankakee.

At the time, Rish and Edwards managed to get the attention of Small at the man’s home. Edwards then placed Small in a wooden box held together with PVC piping. This was supposed to allow Small to breathe, but he couldn’t do so and eventually died. The motive for the murder was Edwards’ need for money, as he dealt drugs and required a bigger income. He later went on to contact the Smalls family and insist on $1 million ransom for the return of Stephen Small, who had likely already died by that point.

Byrne reiterated these facts during the hearing this morning, explaining that Rish was nothing more than a “tool” to aide Edwards in kidnapping Small. Byrne mentions that Rish had driven Edwards to Small’s home and that Rish also never had a chance to fully tell the court her experience.

“Looking at all of the circumstances together…mercy, which is what clemency is about, is appropriate. Nancy does recognize that the Small family’s grief is incomprehensible,” Byrne explained to the courts. “Nancy asked me to express her sympathy to the family. But the jury did not get a complete picture of what was going on with Nancy.”
Further correlating with Byrne’s words is the fact that Edwards has sent forward two affidavits that he personally signed that absolved Rish of involvement in the incident. He also has written letters explaining that he “controlled” Rish, the Tribune notes.

Rish also wrote a letter to the court that was presented on Tuesday. “I was with Danny Edwards when he made calls to the Small home to lure Mr. Small away and to demand a ransom from Mr. Small. I did not know he was calling the Small home. I had absolutely no idea he was planning to kidnap Mr. Small,” she wrote.

The letter also admits that Rish had a cocaine addiction fueled by her former boyfriend’s drug-dealing ways. However, she also notes that she’s gone on to other achievements, such as obtaining a GED in prison, as well as a junior college degree in both cosmetology and dog grooming.

In her letter, she continues: “The woman I have become hardly recognizes the naive, insecure, gullible, immature woman I was back in 1987. I am asking for mercy, for you to find it in your hearts to give me a second chance to prove myself worthy.”

This is not the first instance where Rish has pleaded for her freedom, yet each time her appeal has lost out. Currently, Governor Pat Quinn will have the final say in the decision of whether Rish is allowed free or not.