Crime & Courts

Families brace for Casciaro retrial

WOODSTOCK – Bill Carrick and the family of the man charged with murdering his son have this in common: They want the trial to be over.

“One way or another, whatever happens, I just hope it gets done,” Bill Carrick said. “That might sound a little cold, but it’s not really. I’ve had enough.”

For the second time, Mario Casciaro, 29, will stand trial on murder charges in connection with the 2002 disappearance and presumed death of 17-year-old Brian Carrick. Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday.

A little more than a year ago, the first trial ended with jurors failing to reach a verdict after about 121/2 hours of deliberation. Judge Sharon Prather declared a mistrial.

“When it first came to light that Brian was missing, we had people coming up to our house, knocking on our door, giving us dinner,” Bill Carrick said. “People we didn’t even know. For me, for our community, I just want it done. I think we’ve all been through enough.”

Casciaro’s sister, Joanne, said her family continues to strongly believe in her brother’s innocence and it’s been hard for them as well.

“I think we kind of feel the same way the Carricks do,” she said. “We want to move on with our lives. We want this to be done.”

• • •

Brian Carrick was last seen walking into Val’s Foods, directly across the street from the house he shared with his parents, on Dec. 20, 2002. The grocery store has since closed and reopened under new ownership and a new name.

For years, there
appeared to be few developments in the case until a friend of Casciaro’s, Alan Lippert, agreed to wear a wire and record a conversation between the two men. But portions of the recording were garbled and not admissible in court.

Casciaro still was arrested and charged in 2007 with perjury. The case against him went to trial about two and a half years later and ended with an acquittal after Judge Prather said Lippert’s testimony needed corroboration.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Casciaro was charged with murder.

Prosecutors alleged during the last trial that Carrick owed Casciaro for marijuana and Casciaro called in another man, Shane Lamb, for a confrontation that became physical in the store’s produce cooler.

Lamb was granted immunity from all charges related to Carrick’s death, including murder, in exchange for his testimony.

When Lamb took the stand, he never said Casciaro told him to punch or otherwise hit Carrick. But Lamb said he did end up with Carrick in the cooler, hitting the teen “like one or two times” and Carrick “went down.”

Lamb said Casciaro told him to leave and he didn’t know what happened to the body.

DNA evidence collected from blood found on the scene showed that it was Carrick’s.

None of the blood matched Casciaro’s, but it did match another man: Robert Render.

Like most of the main witnesses, Robert Render also worked at Val’s. In 2008, he was charged with concealing a homicide related to Carrick’s disappearance, but prosecutors dropped the case against him.

He died in May from a heroin overdose at the age of 26. Casciaro’s attorney, Brian Telander, said he had planned to call Render to the stand this time around, although neither side called him last time.

“I was going to go put him on the stand and say, ‘Explain why your blood is on the scene,’ ” Telander said.

• • •

In addition to Render’s death, another significant development in the case happened in the summer, according to the Casciaro family.

After serving a six-year sentence on unrelated drug charges, Lamb was released from prison in April 2012.

Joanne Casciaro said Lamb and her brother ran into each other at Blarney Island, a bar on the Chain O’ Lakes. Lamb allegedly approached Casciaro and admitted to lying on the stand.

The defense was given a copy of surveillance video, although it doesn’t have audio, of the interaction.

After being charged with misdemeanor battery for his alleged involvement in a bar fight in November, Lamb served the rest of his parole in custody, but since has been released again.

He is expected to return to the stand as the prosecution’s main witness. If he changes his story, he risks his immunity deal and could be charged with murder.

The Casciaros don’t think Lamb killed Carrick, but instead went along with a scenario police had suggested years before any arrests were made: Drugs were involved and things got out of hand.

“[Lamb’s] not saying, ‘I have information,’ ” Joanne Casciaro said. “He’s saying, ‘I got a deal and I went with it.’ ”

To Bill Carrick, Lamb being free is the most distressing aspect of the case. Lamb’s criminal history includes multiple felony convictions, including attempted murder in a 1999 incident for which he was sentenced to 30 months in a juvenile detention center.

“Shane is a worry,” Bill Carrick said. “Shane is the thing that bothers me the most.”

He wants to see justice and for Casciaro to be punished, but the minimum 20-year sentence seems like a bit much, Bill Carrick said.

But Bill Carrick said not everyone in the family – there are 14 Carrick children, including Brian – feels the same, particularly Brian’s brothers.

“Who am I to make a call on justice, what’s fair and what isn’t?” he said.

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