WOODSTOCK – Mario Casciaro was found guilty of first-degree murder Tuesday for the presumed death of a Johnsburg teen more than a decade ago, but the case won’t be closed until Brian Carrick’s body is found, prosecutors said.
“In fact, we’re meeting with the FBI in the next two weeks,” said Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, the Criminal Division chief.
After about seven hours of deliberation, the jurors returned with the guilty verdict even though another man, Shane Lamb, said he delivered what was likely the fatal blow.
Casciaro, 29, used Lamb as the “blunt force instrument” to collect on a drug debt, prosecutors said.
Lamb testified Casciaro told him to “talk” to Carrick, but he lost his temper during a confrontation in the produce cooler of the store where all three worked, then called Val’s Foods.
Carrick, 17, hasn’t been seen since that day, Dec. 20, 2002.
Lamb was granted immunity for his testimony and given a reduced sentence on an unrelated drug case.
Although there was a different Criminal Division chief at the time, Combs said he pushed for Lamb’s deal.
“That was my decision, and I stand by it,” he said. “Mario was the ringleader of this, and I think the verdict has proven that Mario is the only logical person who got rid of the body.”
By the time Lamb received his deal in early 2010, the investigation had stalled.
“The case wasn’t going anywhere,” Combs said. “Had we not cut a deal with Shane, no one would have been held responsible.”
Combs said that in 2009, he met with Casciaro and his attorney at the time, William Gibbs, and made an offer: Tell them where Carrick’s body was, and they wouldn’t charge him with murder.
Concealing a homicide still would have been on the table, but not murder, Combs said.
“[Casciaro] could have avoided this,” he said.
Common sense indicates Casciaro did not act alone in disposing of the body, Combs said. Some testimony has alleged he called his cousins for help.
“We’re still looking for Brian Carrick’s body,” Combs said. “This will remain an open case until we find it.”
Combs believes Lamb was being 100 percent truthful when he said he didn’t know what happened to the body. He had previously testified that after he punched Carrick in the face and Carrick “fell down,” Casciaro told him to leave, which he did.
“Shane Lamb is a violent guy and, quite frankly, Shane Lamb has been in the Department of Corrections for most of his life, and it’s not going to be surprising when he’s returned there,” Combs said. “It doesn’t change the fact that Mario unleashed him on Brian Carrick.”
Lamb worked 5 1/2 hours at the store the next day, which Combs said he wouldn’t have done if he had been disposing of a body the night before.
Plus, Combs said, Lamb would have gotten a better deal on his drug case had he told where the body was located.
“He would have gotten a lot less than the six years,” Combs said. “He had every incentive to tell us.”
During the trial, the defense called attention to forensic evidence, namely that the blood of another stockboy, Robert Render, was found at the scene.
Render was charged years ago with concealing a homicide, but prosecutors eventually dropped the case. He has since died from a drug overdose.
There’s no way to date Render’s blood, meaning he could have bled on the produce cooler door at any time, Combs said. Conversely, none of Casciaro’s fingerprints were found, but he admittedly worked there – his father was part owner at the time.
Just as the case isn’t closed for prosecutors, it isn’t over for the defense.
Casciaro’s attorney, Brian Telander, said he plans to file a motion for a new trial. Telander said he does not handle appeals but said one will be filed.
Prosecutors had to prove first-degree murder with intimidation, and Telander said he doesn’t believe they met that legal burden.
The believability of a witness – in this case Shane Lamb – is rarely sufficient for a successful appeal; that’s up to a jury to decide.
But even if Lamb is to be believed – and the defense argued he shouldn’t – his testimony wasn’t consistent with the alleged crime, Telander said.
Lamb testified that Casciaro told him to “talk” to Carrick, not hit or otherwise harm him, and Telander said that legally does not support the guilty verdict.
No sentencing date has been set, but Casciaro faces between 20 and 60 years in prison.
Casciaro was devastated by the verdict, Telander said.
“I had talked to him and counseled him that ... we’re not done by any means,” Telander said.