Crime & Courts

Closing arguments set to start today in Casciaro trial

WOODSTOCK – After closing arguments this morning, a jury is expected to begin deliberations in a murder case that's more than a decade old.

Mario Casciaro, 29, is charged with first-degree murder in connection with the disappearance and presumed death of 17-year-old Brian Carrick in 2002.

It's the second time that Casciaro has gone to trial on a murder charge; the first trial a little more than a year ago ended with a hung jury.

Carrick was last seen at 6:45 p.m. Dec. 20, 2002, at Val's Foods in Johnsburg, directly across the street from the house where he lived with his parents.

Prosecutors have said Casciaro used another man, Shane Lamb, as a “henchman” to collect on a drug debt Carrick owed him.

While in the produce cooler at the store where all three worked, Lamb lost his temper and hit Carrick before leaving, he testified last week. Lamb has been granted immunity; Carrick's body has never been found.

Several witnesses were called by the defense on Monday to impeach Lamb, including a friend of Casciaro, Stephen Denson, and a local attorney, Ed Donahue.

According to Denson and Donahue, who recently represented Denson on a felony fleeing and eluding case, Lamb approached them while they were all at Blarney Island over the summer along with Casciaro.

"I don't have money like you," Lamb told them, according to Denson. "I was facing 45 years. They came at me with a murder indictment."

Donahue reported similar statements made by Lamb while at a bar, namely that Lamb was saying only what prosecutors told him to say.

Donahue said on cross-examination that he didn't think Lamb actually was coached by Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs, the Criminal Division chief and main prosecutor on the case.

"Knowing you, no, I don't think that conversation took place," Donahue said.

Donahue was testifying only that he heard Lamb say he was coached by Combs – not that Combs actually did it.

On the stand previously, Lamb denied making any of those statements, instead saying he told Casciaro to talk to his lawyer.

The defense continues to try to discredit Lamb while pointing a finger at another Val's Foods employee whose blood was found on the scene: Robert Render.

Render, however, died in May 2012 from a drug overdose. He once was charged with concealing a homicide relating to Carrick's disappearance, but the case against him was dropped.

On Dec. 28, 2002 – eight days after Carrick disappeared – Render's father reported that his son had run away, Johnsburg Police Chief Keith Von Allmen said.

Von Allmen said he later saw Render walking along the road and Render ran, but was caught in some woods with a marijuana pipe.

Also taking the stand Monday was Casciaro's friend Jerad Karlen. Karlen said that on the night Carrick disappeared, he saw Casciaro at a small party where they smoked marijuana.

Karlen said he could confirm the date because of flight records. He had flown in from Colorado, where he had been attending school, on his family's private plane.

Karlen said Casciaro wasn't acting unusual that night and they spent several hours together.

The defense and prosecutors also entered into several stipulations, or agreements as to certain facts or what some witnesses would say on the stand.

Those included an agreement that from 11:28 a.m. Dec. 20, 2002, to 10:30 a.m. the following day, there were no phone calls or "chirps" from Casciaro's Nextel phone to Lamb.

But Lamb had said on the stand Casciaro had contacted him that evening to go "talk" to Carrick.

Closing arguments are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. today.

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