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Shane Lamb recants testimony in missing Johnsburg teen’s 2002 murder (with documents)

Left to right Shane Lamb, Mario Casciaro and Brian Carrick.
Left to right Shane Lamb, Mario Casciaro and Brian Carrick.

WOODSTOCK – The prosecution's key witness in a murder case is alleging that his testimony, which helped put another man behind bars, was a lie.

In a sworn statement, Shane Lamb, 30, recanted earlier accounts of what happened the night 17-year-old Brian Carrick disappeared. He now says the version of events he told authorities and prosecutors, and eventually testified to before 24 jurors was force-fed to him by the prosecution.

In the signed affidavit filed Monday, Lamb makes a number of statements, namely that he lied on the stand because he was afraid he would be charged with Carrick's murder. Instead, his testimony led to a first-degree murder conviction for 31-year-old Mario Casciaro.

Casciaro, Lamb and Carrick all worked at Val's Foods where Carrick last was seen in December 2002.

After two trials, Casciaro was convicted of first-degree murder based on intimidation for Carrick's death and was sentenced to 26 years in prison. His case is pending an appeal.

For his testimony at trial, Lamb was given full immunity from a murder charge, and a reduced sentence on a drug case.

At trial, prosecutors painted Lamb as the "blunt force instrument" used to kill Carrick. Lamb, by his own testimony, said Casciaro sent him to "talk to" Carrick about a drug debt, that he lost his temper inside the cooler at Val's Food, and threw a punch that likely killed the teenager. Carrick's body never was found and he is presumed dead.

Now Lamb says he was never there.

"I want to make it clear that I had nothing to do with attacking Brian," Lamb's statement reads. "If he is dead, I have no knowledge where his body is located. I also want to make it clear that I have no knowledge suggesting in any way that Mario was involved in attacking Brian or disposing of his body."

The affidavit filed in McHenry County on Friday alleges that Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs fed him details of the case in order to implicate Casciaro for the murder.

"Prior to receiving my immunity deal, Prosecutor [Michael] Combs, knew that I was going to accuse Mario of involvement in the killing because he told me what to say and I agreed to it," Lamb says in court documents. "Prosecutor Combs knew my statements accusing Mario were false."

Combs and State's Attorney Lou Bianchi rejected Lamb's claims, noting that his statements to authorities were made in the presence of his attorney, were video recorded, and that the video was turned over to Casciaro's defense attorney.

"Why would I coach a witness, or force a witness to say something when the cameras are rolling, and in the presence of his lawyer?" Combs said.

Added Bianchi: "Shane Lamb gave a videotaped, recorded account of the incident as it occurred in Johnsburg the day Brian Carrick disappeared. He gave a videotaped recording in our office, in the presence of his attorney on Jan. 20, 2010. He was consistent when he testified that same way at two subsequent trials."

Lamb is a five-time convicted felon and has pending weapons charges in McHenry County. He exploded on Combs in a recent court appearance, saying the prosecutor was bullying him into taking a plea deal.

Lamb has twice written letters to the Northwest Herald expressing frustration with the State's Attorney's Office and media coverage of his case, but he has refused to be interviewed.

He remains in custody in McHenry County Jail, awaiting trial on Nov. 3. His attorney Paul DeLuca could not be reached for comment for this article.

Lamb's recantation was part of a lengthy legal document filed by Casciaro's appellate attorney. In it, Kathleen Zellner blasts the prosecution for overreach and local police for ignoring and concealing evidence.

She couldn't immediately be reached for comment, but in an earlier interview with the Northwest Herald she questioned Lamb's immunity agreement.

"When you have complete immunity, you don't have a lot to lose by testifying, that's why it's so rare," she said.

Instead, Zellner points the finger at a now dead former stock boy at Val's, and she submitted new witnesses and forensic evidence.

She says that evidence points to a different man, Robert Render, as the perpetrator. Only Carrick's and Render's blood was found in the cooler. Prosecutors have said Render was "a man who bleeds" after his father testified he was constantly biting his nails.

Render died in 2012 of a drug overdose.

A forensic pathologist also provided a sworn statement that the crime did not occur in the cooler, but rather in a hallway outside of it. Dr. Larry Blum – who is a frequent state expert, but not on this trial – opined that the blood evidence indicates Carrick's death was not from a punch, but rather a sharp object such as a knife or box cutter.

Zellner brought out never-before-seen evidence – blood-soaked underwear found hidden in the ceiling at Val's shortly after Carrick went missing. Although she notes that the garment never was tested for DNA or even logged into evidence, she says Render could have used the underwear to clean up the crime scene.

Prosecutors will have a chance to respond to Zellner's petition in court documents. The matter will be before McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather on Oct. 7.

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