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Murder conviction doesn't bring closure for some Johnsburg residents

Published: Wednesday, April 3, 2013 3:14 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, April 4, 2013 10:18 a.m. CDT
(Jim Dallke -
On Tuesday a jury convicted Mario Casciaro, 29, of first-degree murder in the death of Brian Carrick. The conviction comes more than 10 years after the incident at Val's Foods in Johnsburg. Val's Foods was taken over by new management in 2011 and is now named Angelo's Market.

JOHNSBURG – The produce cooler where Brian Carrick was murdered has gone mostly unchanged in the 10 years since the Johnsburg teen’s death.

Boxes of tomatoes, broccoli and other items sparsely cover the dimly lit floor. The room isn’t large, but there’s plenty of room to walk around. The new coat of paint is beginning to crack.

The cooling unit hangs to the left and hums loudly. With the door closed, you wouldn’t be able to hear someone inside.

On Tuesday, a jury convicted Mario Casciaro, 29, of first-degree murder in Carrick’s presumed death. The conviction comes more than 10 years after the incident at Val’s Foods produce cooler where prosecutors say Casciaro used another man, Shane Lamb, as the “blunt force instrument” to kill Carrick.

But the conviction doesn’t exactly bring closure for Johnsburg residents.

Val’s Foods, now named Angelo’s Market after it was taken over by new management in 2011, has tried to separate itself from the horror that took place in its building.

“I hope people don’t associate what happened with us,” store manager David Demarco said. “After the first trial, the media was showing images of our store, saying it happened at this store years ago. Technically it happened at this building. But our customers know we’re completely different families.”

Demarco said business has gone up in the year and a half since the store opened, but there is still the occasional customer who wants to chastise management or offer new insights into the case.

“We have had a couple nasty customers saying things like, ‘Why would you want to be in that place,’ or they’ll come up and talk to me like I know what’s going on,” Demarco said.

The prosecution’s main witness was Lamb, who testified last week that Casciaro called him in to talk to Carrick about a drug debt. Lamb said he lost his temper and hit Carrick. He has been granted full immunity from murder charges in exchange for his testimony.

That plus the fact no body has been found has some residents questioning the outcome of the trial, said Becky Lawrence, assistant bar manager at Halftime Bar & Grill.

“It’s split completely 50/50,” said Lawrence, who went to high school with Casciaro and also knew the Carrick family. “Some people are like he deserves it, he should have been put away a long time ago. Then other people are on the other end. [They say] how can they convict him? They don’t have enough evidence against him.”

Lawrence said she’s not sure how to feel.

“It’s very hard. You don’t want to see someone put in prison who’s maybe innocent,” she said. “But I was very good friends with the Carrick family. It’s nice that they have closure. It’s so hard. I’m up and down. I really don’t know what to believe.”

BP gas station manager Sandy Olesak, are happy the trial has come to an end.

“I feel that the people are relieved it’s been settled,” Olesak said. “I remember the mom used to come in here every day, and she just looked lost. When I heard that the mom passed away a few years ago, I thought, ‘Poor lady. She didn’t get to put her son to rest.’ Now they’re both at rest because the guy was convicted.”

• Northwest Herald reporter Sarah Sutschek contributed to this report

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