Mario Casciaro walked out of prison Wednesday, two years after he was convicted of murdering Johnsburg teenager Brian Carrick.
Casciaro, 32, was convicted of first-degree murder by intimidation in the disappearance of 17-year-old Carrick, who was last was seen Dec. 20, 2002, at the Johnsburg grocery store where he worked, which also was owned by Casciaro’s parents.
A ruling Sept. 17 from the 2nd District Appellate Court overturned Casciaro's conviction because it said evidence was so lacking and improbable that the state failed to prove Casciaro’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. An order from the same court granted Casciaro’s freedom.
About 15 family members waited outside the Menard Correctional Center near St. Louis for Mario Casciaro to walk outside, his sister Joanne Casciaro said. Supporters wore T-shirts that read "free at last" and the backs said "no appeal; game over!"
"We're all on a bus, talking and laughing," Joanne Casciaro said shortly after 1 p.m.
After two jury trials, Casciaro was sentenced to 26 years in prison on Nov. 14, 2013. Officials contended that Casciaro ordered fellow grocery store employee Shane Lamb to intimidate Carrick into paying a drug debt. Lamb had previously testified that after he punched Carrick in the face and Carrick “fell down,” Casciaro told him to leave, which Lamb said he did.
Carrick's body was never found.
Lamb later recanted the entire story in a signed affidavit and on a national news program about the case. He said prosecutors told him to lie. Lamb was convicted earlier this year on unrelated weapons charges and was sentenced to 20 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections.
McHenry County Assistant State's Attorney Michael Combs has said officials plan to appeal the conviction reversal with the Illinois Supreme Court.