Help Bring Nancy Rish Home!

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Help Bring Nancy Rish Home!

This petition had 360 supporters
Freebird Movement started this petition to Governor J.B. Pritzker and

Bring Nancy Rish Home

Nancy Rish has been incarcerated for over 3 decades, for a crime her abusive partner committed.


Location: Kankakee, Illinois

Sentence: Natural Life W/O Parole (M) & 30 Years (AK)

Alleged Crime: First Degree Murder & Aggravated Kidnapping

Age at the Time: 25

Age Now: 59


Main Issues:

No Evidence Pointed to Nancy
History of Domestic Violence was not Factored In
Inadequate Legal Council
The Jury was Provided with an Inaccurate Criteria of the Law
No Other Arrests or Criminal History


To the Family of Stephen Small, 

We are deeply sorry for your loss and the incredible pain you have all experienced. We in no way, want to minimize the pain of losing a husband and father in such a traumatic and brutal way. We cannot imagine how difficult this is for you all to relive. We do not wish to bring you any more suffering. We only wish to bring justice and truth to light. Truth being, that Danny Edwards was the sole person who made the decisions that brought us to this point today, and that Nancy Rish is incredibly sorry that she enabled Danny to be able to carry out his plan, regardless of the lack of knowledge she had at the time.


What Happened:

Nancy Rish was a hard working, single-mom in her early 20's when she met Danny Edwards and the two began dating.

Shortly after, the relationship became abusive and Danny started selling cocaine. After he was caught, he needed a way to make cash fast, so he hatched a plan to kidnap local business man, Stephen Small and hold him for a $1 million dollar ransom.

Nancy was unaware of what he was doing at the time, but had driven him the night of the kidnapping. She later learned of the horrific and cruel actions of Danny that led to the tragic death of Stephen.

Nancy has now been in prison for over 33 years for a crime her  abusive ex-boyfriend committed.


  • December 26th, 1961 - Nancy Rish is born in Kankakee, Illinois.
  • 16 Years Old - Nancy has a son with her now ex-husband.
  • 21 Years Old - Nancy is diagnosed with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
  • 1985 - Nancy's abusive father is murdered.
  • 1986 - Nancy and Danny begin dating.
  • Summer 1986 - Danny tells Nancy to quit her jobs and has her and her son move in.
  • Shortly after - Danny begins dealing cocaine.
  • Danny moves Nancy and her son into a townhome to keep her out of his business.
  • Danny gets caught and turns on his dealer.
  • Late 1986 - They break up, but Danny moves into the townhouse. Nancy tries to leave but she is financially dependent on Danny.
  • Summer 1987 - Danny tells Nancy he still owes a lot of money because of the drug raid. He starts acting weird "even for him."
  • September 1st - 4th, 1987 - The kidnapping.


For a detailed breakdown of the events that occurred, please go to Thank you!


Issues with the case:

  • Convicted based on accountability (accomplice liability) but Nancy’s past history as a victim of domestic violence was never presented at trial.
  • Nancy was inaccurately told by her attorney at the time of the original trial, that she was not allowed to testify about what Danny Edwards had told her while he was committing the crime, because it would be considered hearsay. 
  • Her own lawyer stopped her from telling the jury what Edwards had said and what she had tried to ask him about, at least 15 times during trial. She was stopped from telling the jury that Danny had put a gun to her head and threatened her and her sons lives, and that Danny said someone had been threatening his ex-wife and their children's lives.
  • Danny Edwards admitted that if Nancy would have known about his plan or had helped, he would not have needed the box to hold Stephen Small.
  • The ADA incorrectly told the jury during closing arguments, that they only had to prove Nancy “committed one act to aid or abet Danny”. Nancy’s Defense attorney did NOT object.
  • The Small family owned multiple media outlets in the area.
  • Nancy could not find an attorney to represent her at the time of the arrest, who did not have ties to The Small Family.


Proof of Innocence:

  • Nancy has always maintained her innocence and has been consistent with her account of events.
  • There was no evidence against Nancy, despite ample evidence against Danny.
  • Danny built the box alone.
  • Only Danny’s prints were on the box and pipe.
  • Danny stole the gun and handcuffs alone.
  • Danny made the ransom calls by himself. Despite going to drive-up pay phones, he got out of the car to make the calls so Nancy would not hear him.
  • Soil from the crime scene was found on Danny’s shoes. There was none on Nancy’s.
  • Danny could identify where the crime scene was. Nancy could only identify where she picked Edwards up. (Roughly 1 mile apart)
  • She cooperated with the police.
  • Danny stated he had to bury Stephen Small because he was alone and had no one to hold him while he sought the ransom money.
  • Nancy was at a Mary Kay party the night Danny kidnapped Stephen. The host said Nancy was acting normally and asked if she could clean her house to make extra money. Nancy would not have been trying to make extra side money, if she was expecting a large ransom.
  • Danny Edwards admitted to domestic violence against Nancy, lying to her about the box, and has consistently maintained that Nancy knew nothing about the kidnapping of Stephen Small. 
  • Nancy helped police recover the cassette tape with the recording on it.
  • Danny Edwards has always been consistent when it comes to Nancy and that she did not know about his plan. Even when telling the truth lost the support of his family and any relationships with them.


Nancy Rish is Supported By:

  • Former Wardens
  • Deputy Director of IDOC
  • Supervisors and Instructors
  • Former CO’s
  • Members of religious and prison advocacy organizations
  • Her entire family
  • Citizens of Kankakee
  • Dozens of former and current prisoners who have benefitted from her guidance and mentorship
  • Members of the community

For a full list of Nancy's supporters, click HERE.


Nancy's Accomplishments while Incarcerated: 

  • No other arrests or criminal history
  • Exemplary disciplinary record in prison
  • Manager of the Tool Room (3 years)
  • Master Dog Groomer, Helping Paws Program (16+ Years)
  • Completion of Lewis University's curriculum in Culinary Arts I (1998)
  • Completion of Lewis University's curriculum in Computer Technology I (1999)
  • Certification as a dog grooming assistant from Lake Land College (2002)
  • Lake Land College Honors List (2002)
  • Lake Land College Presidential Scholar (2003)
  • Illinois Department of Public Health Food Service Sanitation License (2003)
    AA Degree of Liberal Studies from Lake Land College, Summa Cum Laude (2005)
    Certified Pet Care Technician with American Boarding and Kennels Association (2006)
  • Certificate of Completion from the “Be Transformed” program seminar by Daughters of Destiny, an organization providing spiritual ministry to incarcerated women (2010)
  • Completed studies of the book of Revelation (2012)
  • Completed a 1 year study of Hebrew Scriptures (2011)
  • Certifications for Completed Mental Health Groups hosted by Lake Land College, including Emotions Management and Seeking Safety, Healthy Relationships and Self Esteem (2018 & 2019)
  • Acknowledged Leader of the Helping Paws Program. Nancy has been in the program for 18+ years. She is the longest serving member in the program. (2003 - Present)
  • Developed and implemented an 8 week course to instruct new trainees in dog grooming. Certification for those completing the course has been approved by the IDOC in Springfield and the wardens at Logan.
  • Mentor and teacher to women incarcerated in Illinois.


Reasons to Bring Nancy Home: 

  • Nancy was convicted based on an inaccurate representation of the law. A history of domestic violence was also not considered.
  • Nancy has Guillain-Barre Syndrome and caught Covid in December of 2021.
  • Her mom is 91 and suffers from polio and dementia. She visited Nancy nearly every month for over 25 years. She is no longer able to.
  • Nancy has housing and a job lined up pending her release.
  • Nancy and her family have experienced an immense generational trauma from her being wrongfully imprisoned for over 34 years. She has missed an unfathomable amount of holidays and birthdays that she should not have.
  • Nancy poses no risk to herself or to others. She has proven over the 3.5 decades she has spent wrongfully incarcerated, that she is not a threat to others, and that she is a willing and able asset to society. She has mentored and helped train countless women to help them secure jobs upon release and to be able to rejoin their families and society. It is long overdue that Nancy is given that chance as well.


How YOU can help Nancy:


Purchase a "Justice for Nancy Rish" t-shirt or dog bandana. All proceeds go directly towards Nancy's case. 

Donate in honor of Nancy. All donations in her name will go directly towards her case.

Sign her Petition! Once we have enough signatures, it will be sent directly to government officials in Illinois, who have the power to help Nancy.

Share our posts about her case. You can follow us on Instagram @freebirdMVMT or on TikTok @FrankieFromFreebird for the quickest updates.

Purchase Jim Riding's book, detailing her case.

Submit a Tip if you know anything about the events that took place in Kankakee, Illinois which led to the tragic death of Stephen Small.


If you have any additional questions, please email them to us at or use the contact page above.

Thank you for your advocacy,

Freebird Movement Team

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