Real Name: Jaclyn Marie Dowaliby
Location: Midlothian, Illinois
Date: September 10, 1988
Details: Jaclyn Dowaliby was the seven-year-old daughter of Cynthia Dowaliby and adopted daughter of her second husband, David. On September 10, 1988, David and his son awoke early; they made sure to stay quiet and not wake the rest of the family, including his mother who lived in the basement. However, at 7:15 am, David discovered the front door partially open; at first, he thought that his mother had come home earlier and left the door open. Her car was not in the driveway, though, but he then assumed that she had left again while leaving the door open. Two hours later, Cynthia went in to Jaclyn's room to wake her. However, Jaclyn was not in her room; they initially assumed that she was out playing with friends. After searching the home, David and his son went out searching for Jaclyn; they could find no trace of her. When Cynthia went back into Jaclyn's room, she discovered that her comforter was missing, which was unusual as Jaclyn would not take it with her to go outside.
When Cynthia walked down her driveway to go to a neighbor's house, she noticed that the basement window had been broken. It appeared that an intruder had used it to gain entrance to the house. Within hours, the police and FBI were at the Dowaliby household, waiting for a ransom demand. However, no call came in. Four days later, Jaclyn's body was discovered in a vacant field near Blue Island, Illinois. Found at the scene was Jaclyn's comforter and nightgown, along with rope that was around Jaclyn's rope.
From the beginning, the investigation into Jaclyn's disappearance was two-pronged; while they pursued the possibility of a kidnapping, they began a detailed questioning of both Cynthia and David. The questions involved what the Dowalibys did the morning of Jaclyn's disappearance. Investigators believed that the basement window was broken from the inside to make it look like an intruder was responsible. Dust on the window sill had not been disturbed.
On September 11, the day after Jaclyn's disappearance, David agreed to take a polygraph examination at FBI headquarters in Chicago. An agent told David that he had passed the examination. Three days passed with no new leads; on the day that Jaclyn's body was found, David was asked to take another polygraph. The results of this test was inconclusive; the examiner claimed that David was uncooperative. David, however, claimed that the examiner told him to answer "yes" to every question, including the question "Did you kill your daughter?" to which David said he refused to respond with "yes".
After the second polygraph, David was interrogated for five hours; finally, an officer interrupted. The officer said that Jaclyn's body was found; David believed that the police officers were lying to him in order to get him to confess. However, when he came home to find Cynthia crying, he knew that the news was true. An autopsy was unable to determine when Jaclyn was murdered. On September 17, she was laid to rest. The investigation now involved the Illinois State Police, the Midlothian Police, and the Blue Island Police. For two months, they gathered evidence and built a case against the Dowalibys. Finally, in November 1988, David and Cynthia Dowaliby were arrested and charged with Jaclyn's murder; Cynthia was two months pregnant. However, the couple insisted that they were innocent.
In April 1990, David and Cynthia Dowaliby went on trial for Jaclyn's murder. The prosecution had built its case mainly on circumstantial evidence. One prosecution witness, a transit worker named Everett Mann, had picked David out of a photo lineup. He claimed that on the night of Jaclyn's murder, he had seen a man with a prominent nose (like David's) sitting in a parked car near the site where Jaclyn's body was found. The defense felt that this identification was ridiculous; Everett was at least 75 feet away from the car and it was a dark, moonless night. Also, the photo spread that Everett was shown were frontal photographs, even though Everett saw the person from a side view. David's photograph was also larger than the other four photographs.
Before the trial, two other eyewitnesses claimed that they had seen Cynthia's car near the area where Jaclyn's body was found. However, these sightings were discredited because it was confirmed that Cynthia's car was in front of the Dowaliby home at the time of the sightings. Another issue in the prosecution case involved the basement window. A forensic analysis was done on the window to determine if it had been broken from the inside or the outside of the home. The report concluded that the window had actually been broken from the outside, but by this time, the Dowalibys had already been arrested.
The prosecution also questioned whether it was possible for someone to enter the house without disturbing the items below the basement window. There were several items, including a nightstand, towel rack, TV tray, and makeup tray. None of these items were disturbed. To prove that this was possible David shot a video showing a neighbor entering through the basement window. The neighbor was able to wedge his leg on the wall and enter without disturbing anything.
Other prosecution evidence included: a bloodstained pillow found in Jaclyn's bedroom, head hairs similar to Jaclyn's found in the trunk of her parents' car, her brother claiming that she got "spanked a lot" by their parents, and a neighbor identifying the rope that killed Jaclyn as one that her brother often played with. However, the blood on the pillow could not be identified, and the hairs could not be confirmed as coming from Jaclyn's. The defense focused on a convicted sex offender, Perry Hernandez, who committed a similar abduction one year after Jaclyn's murder.
The Dowalibys never testified during the trial. Before closing arguments, the judge addressed both legal teams without the jury present. He decided that the case against David Dowaliby would continue as scheduled. However, he felt that there was insufficient evidence for Cynthia's case to be put to the jury. The jury deliberated for three days before finding David Dowaliby guilty of first-degree murder. He was sentenced to forty-five years in prison. However, Cynthia and friends of the family created a grass roots movement in an attempt to get David released. The movement caught the attention of legal journalist David Protess; in several articles, he criticized the conviction of David Dowaliby. Paul Hogan worked with Protess to create a series of investigative journalism reports in an attempt to get David Dowaliby released.
In October 1991, Illinois Court of Appeals reversed David's conviction and ordered him to be released. However, some investigators are still convinced that David Dowaliby is responsible for Jaclyn's murder. David and Cynthia Dowaliby are still searching for Jaclyn's real killer.
Suspects: Although David Dowaliby was initially convicted in Jaclyn's murder, two other suspects had been considered and dismissed as having alibis.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 18, 1992 episode. Jaclyn's murder was also featured on American Justice.
Results: Unresolved. After the broadcast, two viewers called the telecenter and refuted the alibi of one of the original suspects. This suspect was Timothy Guess, Jaclyn's biological uncle. Guess, a diagnosed schizophrenic, claimed that he was working at a local restaurant on the night of Jaclyn's murder. However, at least five regular patrons of the restaurant have stated that Guess was not there that night. Also, one of Guess's original alibi witnesses has since changed her story. Guess also had links to the apartment next to where Jaclyn's body was found.
Jaclyn's case was reopened by the State Attorney's office; however, charges were never filed against Guess. According to journalist David Protess, Guess later told him that a "spirit" that lived inside him had told him details about Jaclyn's murder. Guess told Protess about the layout of the Dowaliby home, even though he had never been inside. He also knew that a light was on in Jaclyn's closet, but not her bedroom. This detail was never released to the public. Despite the evidence against him, Guess was never charged; he died in 2002.
Another suspect, convicted sex offender Perry Hernandez, was investigated; he had committed a similar abduction one year after Jaclyn's murder. However, evidence found on Jaclyn's body did not match him and he was cleared by authorities. The Dowalibys have since moved and changed their last names due to publicity form the case. They still hope that Jaclyn's murder can be solved. Officially, Jaclyn's case remains unsolved.
- Jaclyn Dowaliby at Wikipedia
- David Dowaliby on National Registry of Exonerations
- Prosecutors Reveal Dowaliby Evidence
- Unidentified Fingerprint Cited In Dowalibys` Murder Case
- Dowaliby Trial Set To Begin
- Surprise In Dowaliby Case Testimony
- Dowaliby Case Haunts Jaclyn`s Real Father
- Dowaliby Case Hinges On Break-in Story
- `Violence` Led Jury To Dowaliby Verdict
- People v. David Dowaliby
- Freedom: Dowaliby clings to family after release
- Dowaliby Uncle's Alibi Hit
- Book on murder helps renew investigations
- Did mentally ill uncle do it?
- Jaclyn Dowaliby cold case reexamined 28 years later
- Jaclyn Dowaliby at Find a Grave