Johnsburg murder case: Mario Casciaro, Shane Lamb making moves in court

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

WOODSTOCK – Attorneys for Mario Casciaro are asking that evidence collected from a 2002 death investigation be DNA tested, while Shane Lamb is asking for new prosecutors and a change of venue.

Both men are accused of playing a role in the disappearance of Johnsburg teen Brian Carrick, who went missing in 2002 and is presumed dead.

Casciaro was convicted of Carrick’s murder largely on the testimony of Lamb, who said Casciaro ordered him to collect a drug debt from 17-year-old Carrick. At Casciaro’s trials, Lamb said he punched Carrick who “went down.”

Prosecutors argued because Casciaro sent Lamb to talk to Carrick about the debt, Casciaro was legally responsible for the teen’s death.

But Lamb, now facing unrelated weapons charges and a trial scheduled for the beginning of next year, has recanted that account. Lamb was given full immunity for murder charges for testimony that implicated Casciaro in Carrick’s murder. Lamb now says Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs put him up to it, and that neither he nor Casciaro had anything to do with Carrick’s disappearance.

Casciaro is serving a 26-year prison sentence for the murder.

On Wednesday, the attorney handling his appeal asked that 12-year-old evidence be DNA tested, and prosecutors agreed.

His attorney, Kathleen Zellner, believes another man – Robert Render – was responsible for the crime. Other than Carrick’s, traces of Render’s blood were the only other blood found at Val’s. Prosecutors said that was because Render was known to bite his nails and bleed.

Render died of a drug overdose between Casciaro’s two trials and never was called as a witness by either side.

The evidence that will be tested includes clothing recovered from Render’s garbage cans in 2002 by Johnsburg police.

Combs agreed to the testing, which will be screened at Dallas, Texas-based Orchid Cellmark, a private DNA testing company.

“I told Ms. Zellner, anything she wants tested, we’ll test,” Combs said. “… I have nothing to hide.”

Zellner also has called for DNA testing to underwear recovered from Val’s Foods. The underwear was never logged into evidence, and no longer exists for testing.

Casciaro’s family believes the underwear – now said to soiled with a blood-like substance – would clear their son and brother of involvement in the crime.

“We are obviously outraged at the way the [Johnsburg Police Department] handled the evidence in this case,” Casciaro’s sister, Joanne, said in an email to the Northwest Herald. “We cannot believe that a critical piece of evidence, the blood-soaked underwear found four months after Brian Carrick went missing, is not available for testing. We strongly believe that the results of the underwear could clear Mario. We want answers.”
Combs couldn’t explain why the evidence never was tested in 2002 because he wasn’t working at the State’s Attorneys Office at the time, but said Casciaro’s defense attorney knew of the missing underwear well before the trial, but never mentioned it at trial.

As for Lamb, he requested a special prosecutor be brought in for his case. He’s charged with residential burglary, possession of firearms, and as an armed habitual criminal.

Lamb believes he cannot get a fair trial because of his recantation on the Casciaro case and pretrial publicity on his case.

In court documents, his attorney, Paul DeLuca, cited more than 120 newspaper articles and editorials involving Lamb. Lamb also appeared on national TV in ABC’s “20/20” to recant his testimony against Casciaro.

Lamb’s latest case is being handled by another prosecutor, Robert Zalud.

“That was never my case,” Combs said.

A hearing on those issues is set for Dec. 12.

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