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Casciaro found guilty of first-degree murder

Published: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:57 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:16 p.m. CDT

(Continued from Page 2)

WOODSTOCK – Jerry Casciaro clutched his chest in an emotional outburst in a McHenry County Courthouse hallway Tuesday after his son was found guilty of first-degree murder for a Johnsburg teen's presumed death more than 10 years ago.

"They had the blood and fingerprints [of another man] and everything, and they charged my son because he said go talk to him," Jerry Casciaro said.

The jury convicted Mario Casciaro, 29, after about seven hours of deliberation. He hung his head briefly after the verdict was read, but remained mostly expressionless as a group of family and friends behind him began crying.

Casciaro's bond was revoked, and he was immediately taken into custody. He faces a minimum of 20 years in prison; a sentencing date has not been set.

Prosecutors have said Casciaro used another man, Shane Lamb, as the "blunt force instrument" to kill 17-year-old Brian Carrick while inside the produce cooler of Val's Foods, where all three worked.

Carrick was last seen about 6:45 p.m. Dec. 20, 2002; his body never has been found.

Casciaro was first tried for murder about a year ago, but it ended with a mistrial after jurors failed to reach a unanimous verdict.

Four of Carrick's 13 siblings were present for the guilty verdict, as well as his father, Bill Carrick.

"Justice was served," Bill Carrick said.

But Casciaro supporters – particularly his mother, Maria – said there was a cover-up. She blasted prosecutors as she left the courthouse.

Casciaro's brother, Eugene, said he was numb.

"It's just a shame," he said. "Anybody that knows my brother knows that he's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet."

Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs, who exchanged words with Eugene Casciaro after the verdict was read, said he has lived the case for years.

"I can't describe how emotional I am right now," Combs said. "I've had witnesses threaten me; I've had witnesses lie to me. I've only wanted to get justice for the Carrick family."

The fact that Carrick's mother, Terry, died before seeing the verdict is disheartening, Combs said.

"For that, I hold Mario responsible," he said.

Combs said Casciaro deserves the maximum sentence.

"For every day [the Carricks] wake up and still do not know what suffering happened to their son, and to not give Brian a decent burial," Combs said. "Every day that they wake up, it's like a fresh wound."

The prosecution's main witness was the "henchman" Shane Lamb, who testified last week that Casciaro called him in to talk to Carrick about a drug debt.

Lamb – who has been granted full immunity from murder charges – said he lost his temper and hit Carrick, who "fell down."

Lamb has a reputation of willingly engaging in violence, Assistant State's Attorney Patrick Kenneally said. He is a convicted felon who has been to prison mutliple times and was charged with attempted murder at age 14.

"Somewhere out there on this cold spring day lies Brian Carrick," Kenneally said. "Everything he had, or would have, was snatched from him."

Kenneally said he would prefer that Casciaro had been friends with a group of nuns, but that's not the way criminals work.

"That's not who he chose to employ in his little drug cartel," Kenneally said. "Criminals flock together."

The defense countered that Lamb was "lying about lying about lying."

"He can't tell the truth about anything," Brian Telander, Casciaro's attorney, said during closing arguments. "His name should have been Pinocchio."

Kenneally asked if Lamb were lying, why would he point the finger at himself?

He had immunity and could have said Jimmy Hoffa or President Obama killed Carrick.

"Why would he do that to himself when he doesn't have to?" Kenneally said.

Telander said it was easy to get caught up in the tragedy of the story, but pointed out that the man who said he killed Carrick got no punishment for the crime.

In fact, Telander said, Lamb also got a better deal on a drug case, too.

"[Lamb] is walking around the streets today because they gave him immunity," Telander said.

Telander also said that, if Lamb is to be believed, Casciaro never told him to hurt, punch or otherwise harm Carrick.

Lamb said he lost his temper and that's why he punched Carrick, which was not at Casciaro's direction.

"It's not a crime in this country to talk to someone," Telander said.

Telander also pointed to DNA evidence from the scene that showed another stockboy's blood in the cooler: Robert Render.

Prosecutors had said Render was "a man who bleeds" after his father testified he was constantly biting his nails.

"I mean, come on," Telander said. "I don't mean to make fun of it, but come on."

Render worked at the store for only two more days after Carrick disappeared; eight days later, Render was reported missing by his father.

That showed that Render, who has since died from a drug overdose, had a guilty conscience, Telander said.

Two other main witnesses for the state, Alan Lippert and Chris "Priest" Amen, testified Casciaro made incriminating statements to them years afterward.

To Lippert, Casciaro allegedly said that Lamb was supposed to just scare Carrick, but things got out of hand.

Amen testified Casciaro said, "I make people disappear," after a confrontation at a bar.

But both are convicted felons, and Lippert was drunk the night of the alleged statements and Amen is an admitted ecstacy dealer, Telander said.

In his last statement before the jury, Combs held up an envelope with a blood stain of Carrick's inside.

That's all that's left of him, Combs said.

"That's all he was to this guy," said Combs, gesturing toward Casciaro. "Don't reward the defendant for getting rid of the body."

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