Cruz Case Investigator Seen as 'Very Bright and Very Tough'

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Byline: John Chase Daily Herald Staff Writer

During closing arguments in John Wayne Gacy's trial, William Kunkle walked over to the easel holding pictures of Gacy's 33 victims.

Nearby was a portion of the infamous crawl space from Gacy's house, brought in as evidence during the trial.

Kunkle grabbed the photos and threw them into an opening to the crawl space.

"I want you to do the same thing to that man there," he said to the jury, pointing at Gacy.

That's the recollection of the man who defended Gacy, Sam Amirante, now a Cook County judge.

It was a move that slammed the door on Gacy's case and eventually his life. And it was part of the ascension of Kunkle's career from that of an assistant state's attorney to being one of the area's most respected and feared lawyers.

"I've seen him as a competitor and from behind the bench," said Amirante, "and there's no one better. He is the epitome of a trial lawyer and he's a take-charge kind of guy. But he doesn't do it in an obnoxious way."

That reputation brought Kunkle, 55, to DuPage County, where he became a special prosecutor investigating the way the Jeanine Nicarico murder case was handled.

Kunkle's expected to take center stage again today and announce a grand jury indictment of three prosecutors and four sheriff's officers who headed the tainted prosecution of Rolando Cruz, twice convicted of the 10-year-old Naperville girl's murder. Cruz was freed last year, when the case blew up amid discrepancies about statements he made to police about the murder.

The charges against the prosecutors and police are expected to include obstruction of justice, perjury and official misconduct.

In the tight world of the legal profession, prosecuting cops and attorneys is one of the toughest jobs someone can take on.

Kunkle scoffed when asked why he was chosen for the job.

"I would say I have some experience in homicide investigations and prosecuting high-profile cases," Kunkle said. "But why was I chosen? I don't know. I have no business trying to describe myself."

But to some of those who know Kunkle best - both partners and opponents in the courtroom - it's clear why he was picked.

"He has a moral fiber that's above reproach," said Terry Sullivan, a former prosecutor who worked alongside Kunkle on the Gacy case. …