Bailey also has taken aim at Villarreal for recently vacating the 2008 murder conviction of Nathaniel Onsrud, who allegedly confessed to killing his four-month-old son in 2007. Villarreal ordered Onsrud released from prison after the Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield took up the case and contacted Villarreal after finding irregularities with the files.
Villarreal is a first-generation American; both of her parents emigrated to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico. She graduated from Alleman High School and earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and her law degree from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. She returned to practice law in the Quad-Cities, beginning with Katz & Nowinski in Moline.
She spent four years as an assistant public defender with the Rock Island County public defender’s office before going into practice with her husband, Nate Nieman, at Nieman Law Group. She was most recently an associate at Winstein, Kavensky & Cunningham, where she practiced criminal and civil litigation.
“I knew I had the right intentions for this job,” Villarreal said. “I love criminal law, I love learning new things and taking on new challenges. I want to make a difference.
“I also wanted an opportunity to be a different voice. There has not been a female state’s attorney before. I come from a different background; I’m a minority and I’ve lived in another country (Mexico.) I don’t come from a family of lawyers or judges, and I come from a defense background. I wanted to bring a new view and a different kind of leadership.”