A McHenry County judge on Tuesday denied Mario Casciaro – what would have been his third murder trial, – in the murder of a coworker last seen alive on the evening of Dec. 20, 2002.
She also denied his motion to toss out the jury’s guilty conviction all together and set his sentencing date for Nov. 14. He faces 20 to 60 year in prison.
“I’m devastated, it’s not fair,” said his mother, Maria, outside the courtroom after McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Prather swiftly gave her decision and handed attorneys a 20-page document detailing her decision.
Casciaro, 30, who has been held in custody since being found guilty of first-degree murder with intimidation in April shook his head from side to side in apparent disbelief at his fate as he was escorted back into custody by McHenry County Sheriff’s officers.
Casciaro was found guilty of first degree murder with intimidation in the disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick, 17. Carrick’s blood was found in and around a produce cooler Val’s Grocery Store in Johnsburg where he worked as a stock boy with Casciaro. Casciaro’s family were part owners of the store at the time.
During the trial witnesses said Carrick owed Casciaro a $500 debt in drug dealing money.
Shane Lamb, who also worked at the grocery store and sold pot for Casciaro, testified in both murder trials for the prosecution against Casciaro.
The first murder trial ended in a hung jury last year.
Lamb testified said that Casciaro told him to come to the store to “talk” to Carrick to help collect his money. Lamb, who was given immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony, said while confronting Carrick he became angry and punched him.
Lamb said Carrick fell backward to the ground, inside the cooler, unconscious, he then left the store, not knowing what had happened to Carrick’s body.
Lamb, nor anyone else at the store that evening, nor his family or friends, has ever seen Carrick again.
His body has never been found.
Defense attorney Brian Telander argued that Casciaro should not have been found guilty of intimidation because he only told Lamb to “talk” to Carrick.
In her written ruling, which denied motions to throw out the guilty verdict, as well as, denied a motion for a new trial, Prather wrote “Under the facts of this case the court concludes that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that defenant and Shane Lamb intended to use whatever force necessary to intimidate Brian Carrick into paying the money he owed ….. .”
She also wrote that “There was no other reason for the defendant to call Lamb back to Val’s other than to intimidate Carrick and act as the defendant’s muscle.”
Telander also argued that several mistakes had been made during the trial, including being cut off during closing arguments.
To which Prather cited case law that says “Presiding judge must be and is given great latitude in controlling the duration and limiting the scope of closing summations. He may limit counsel to a reasonable time and may terminate argument when continuation would be repetitive or redundant.”
“In 35 years of practice, I’ve never seen closing arguments cut off by a judge in murder case, ever,” Telander said.
Telander said after sentencing, he along with Kathleen Zellner, a high-profile defense lawyer from Chicago, will take the case to the appellate courts for an appeal.
“I’m extremely confident in a successful appeal,” Telander said. “I have never seen a case that has had this many legitimate issues.”
Michael Combs, chief of the criminal division, said he was “not surprised” by the judge’s ruling.
“I was confident we were gonna prevail,” Combs said. “The law was on our side. I’m sick and tired of his family acting like he was railroaded, that we were making stuff up….It’s a bunch of nonsense.”
Brian’s dad William Carrick left the courtroom without comment.