Man withdraws petition to be formally declared innocent by his prosecutors in infamous 2002 Johnsburg murder of teen — still seeks millions

A former Fox Lake man once imprisoned for his suspected role in the murder of a Johnsburg teen more than 15 years ago has ended his fight with the state to be officially declared innocent.

Mario Casciaro, 34, who now lives in Chicago, spent 22 months in prison – part of a 26-year sentence – handed down in 2013 after being convicted in the murder of 17-year-old Brian Carrick.

The sordid tale rocked the small McHenry County town near the Wisconsin border as well as the Johnsburg grocery store where the two worked at the time.

Authorities have long believed that an altercation inside a produce cooler involving another man, Shane Lamb, led to the presumed murder on Dec. 20, 2002. Carrick’s body has never been found but his blood was found in and around the cooler.

More than a decade, one perjury trial and two murder trials would go by before Casciaro was found guilty of the rarely used charge of first-degree murder by intimidation.

Prosecutors said Casciaro, the suspected ring leader in a local drug business operating out of the grocery store known at the time as Val’s, told Lamb to “talk” to Carrick over a drug dealing debt of about $500.

Lamb, at both murder trials – the first ending in a mistrial – testified that he became angry, punched and knocked out Carrick. As he saw the small-framed boy lying unconscious and bleeding on the cooler floor, Lamb said, Casciaro told him to leave the store and he would take care of the body. Carrick was never seen alive after that night, authorities, witnesses and his family members said.

Lamb – accusing prosecutors of telling him what to say in exchange for total immunity and lesser prison time in an unrelated cocaine charge he was facing a the time – later retracted his testimony. Prosecutors have vehemently denied such accusations and stand by their case even today.

In 2015 an appellate court overturned Casciaro’s conviction. Casciaro’s attorneys have publicly blamed a third man, another co-worker at the grocery store, for Carrick’s murder. But this man died of a drug overdose during the months between the two murder trials. He was never charged with murder in the Carrick case.

Over the last 20 months Casciaro had argued with McHenry County State’s Attorney to grant him a certificate of innocence. This certificate would have resulted in a payment of $20,000 but on Friday Casciaro withdrew his petition.

“Mr. Casciaro believes the appellate court decision … establishes his innocence,” his attorney Kathleen Zellner wrote in a statement.

Citing the already $50,000 settlement the county has paid to Casciaro she added that “The obvious bias against Mr. Casciaro by the Mchenry County State’s Attorney’s Office would result in protracted expensive litigation over at most $20,000 in compensation.”

Zellner explained that with the expectation that Casciaro would have been denied, he would have then had to spend an additional $75,000 in appeals.

Casciaro also has a civil lawsuit of $6 million pending against Johnsburg. Zellner said should Johnsburg not settle and the case goes to trial she will pursue $18 million.

McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally said suddenly dismissing the petition “after nearly a year of proceedings and just prior to the final hearing is disgraceful.

“Casciaro has said a lot of things and pointed a lot of fingers,” Kenneally wrote. “He claimed he is innocent.  He claimed prosecutors acted inappropriately.  He claimed a witness, who conveniently has since died and can no longer defend himself, is the real culprit.  All anyone really needs to know, however, is that on the day prior to the final hearing, when he would have been required to actually “prove” these claims, he tellingly cut bait and dismissed his Petition.”            
 
Casciaro is attending law school in Chicago and working for the city’s public defender’s office.

Carrick was one of 17 children raised in an Irish Catholic family. He was raised in a large white, two story home that set across the street from the grocery store where he was last seen alive. His parents have both died not knowing where there son is.

(If interested in Lamb’s lawsuit please visit me at Bittersweet: http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/2017/09/star-witness-in-infamous-2002-disappearance-and-presumed-murder-of-johnsburg-teen-sues-mchenry-county-authorities-cites-coercion-and-intimidation-to-testify/

Attorney asks trial court to agree exonerated man is innocent in Johnsburg murder of teen

Mario Casciaro, the only person imprisoned in connection with the haunting 2002 disappearance and presumed death of a 17-year-old Johnsburg resident — who eventually walked free — is asking a McHenry County judge to officially acceede to his innocence.

Today Casciaro is a free man about to pursue a law degree, and is seeking to have the presiding judge in his conviction, McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather, issue a “Certificate of Innocence.”

The move – essentially asking the trial judge to agree with the ruling of the appellate judges who exonerated Casciaro last year – is a step toward Casciaro seeking compensation from the state for the 22 months he spent inside Menard Correctional Center in Chester Ill. as an innocent man, his attorney Kathleen Zellner said.

Zellner won Casciaro’s freedom last year after arguing details of his conviction in the infamous cold case mystery of missing teen Brian Carrick at the 2nd District Appellate Court in Elgin. On Wednesday, Casciaro’s 33 birthday, she filed the petition in the McHenry County Clerk’s office.

In court Wednesday McHenry County State’s Attorney Michael Combs asked Prather for time to review and respond to the petition. The matter is up next June 29. Outside the courtroom Combs declined to comment.

Prosecutors have stood by their case against Casciaro that he is guilty of first-degree murder with intimidation because he set into motion the events that led to the death of Carrick inside a grocery store cooler on Dec. 20, 2002.

Casciaro, whose family were part owners of what was Val’s Finer Foods in Johnsburg, faced two juries. The first in 2012 ended in a mistrial and the second a year later resulted in his conviction.

Casciaro, who has long maintained his innocence, was sentenced to 26 years in prison. The state’s case relied heavily on the words of another man, Shane Lamb, who said at Casciaro’s instruction he confronted Carrick on a drug dealing debt owed to Casciaro.

Lamb, currently in prison on unrelated weapons charges who received full immunity in the Carrick case in exchange for his testimony, testified that he argued with Carrick inside a produce cooler.

He detailed for jurors in both trials that he became angry and punched Carrick out cold. He told jurors as Carrick laid bleeding and unconscious Casciaro told him to leave and he’d handle the body.

At the time all three men worked at the grocery store.

Carrick’s blood was found in and around the cooler but his body has never been recovered.

In overturning the conviction outright, the appellate court noted, among several factors, the lack of physical evidence to convict Casciaro. They also said that Lamb’s details of the crime did not show there was any intimidation by Casciaro nor did his tale, if at all true, line up with blood spatter found in and around the produce cooler.

“Lamb’s entire testimony was so inconsistent, contradictory and incredible that it was palpably contrary to the verdict,” appellate judges wrote in their ruling.

The judge’s also noted Lamb later said he made up the story at the instruction of McHenry County State’s Attorneys seeking to convict Casciaro. Combs has vehemently denied this accusation.

Zellner has pointed to another man as being responsible for Carrick’s death. But this man was never brought to trial and died of a heroin overdose between Casciaro’s two trials.

After Casciaro’s release from prison in last year, prosecutors said they stood by their case. They attempted to have their case heard at the Illinois Supreme Court. They were denied in March.

Motioning the court to issue the certificate of innocence is a state law sought in cases where a person is exonerated and there is an outright reversal, Zellner explained.

“It is state law. Many of these have been granted to those (wrongfully convicted) who have been released,” Zellner said. “The statute provides that if you have an outright reversal, which is what we have that we can apply for this … I believe that this will be granted.”

After this certificate of innocence is granted, Zellner can move forward with filing a petition with the Illinois Court of Claims for compensation owed to Casciaro for the time he was “wrongfully incarcerated,” she said.

Should the trial court deny the petition Zellner said she would take it to the appellate court.

Carrick was one of 14 children from a strong Irish Catholic family who grew up in the large white farmhouse across the street from the grocery store. Both of his parents, Terry and William, have died without fully knowing what happened to their son. Neither ever turned vengeful in their quest for answers. Over the years, each expressed just wanting to know the truth so they could forgive and move on.

Mystery on Johnsburg Road: How it all Began

It was 2002, five days before Christmas.

My 13 siblings were all in different stages of their lives, some living on their own and some with their own spouses and kids. All were preparing to make the trek home to Johnsburg Il. for our big Irish Catholic family Christmas feast.

I still lived at home with my mom and dad, and a couple of the younger siblings in our small rural town located near the Wisconsin border. I grew up surrounded by lots of family, and cool wooded areas and rivers to explore.

I love my big family and they love me.

I was excited for Christmas. It was my favorite holiday. I loved helping to hang lights and decorate the tree. Mom already had a wrapped present for me under the tree.

Dec. 20, 2002 was the last day of school before Christmas break. It was a Friday and although I didn’t have to work that day, at about 6:30 p.m. I left my big white farmhouse style home where I lived for the last -and only- 17 years of my life.

I didn’t walk far. I just crossed the road to the grocery store. The store I grew up seeing everyday outside our family’s living room window. I’d worked there as a stock boy. I loved that job. Many of my siblings also worked there over the years.

The grocery store was owned by another large, well-known family from the area.

Our families were close — at one time.

I passed my older brother Eddie on my way into the store as he was going out to the parking lot to gather grocery carts.

He never saw me again.

A few employees working that night said they saw me in the store. But no one ever said they saw me outside the store again after that night.

My blood was found pooled in a produce cooler and spattered on boxes and walls leading to a back door exit. My blood also was found on boxes in an outside dumpster.

My blood.

But I was no where to be found.

All the searching. All the praying. All the tears and candlelight vigils. All the rumors, accusations, finger pointing and courtroom dramas.

I have never been found.

(Watch an update to the latest twist on ABC 2020 9 p.m CT Saturday Jan. 2)

Shane Lamb: key witness in 2002 disappearance gets 20 years for stealing guns

Shane Lamb — a key witness in the infamous 2002 disappearance and presumed murder of a Johnsburg teenager — told a McHenry County judge today that when he is out of prison in his latest case he wants “to come out a better man.”

Lamb, 30, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for stealing a safe from the home of a friend last April.

In January, he pleaded guilty to aggravated possession of a stolen firearm, in exchange prosecutors dropped three remaining charges.

Lamb admitted that he stole a safe from the McHenry townhouse of John Farenzena.

Farenzena testified Thursday that he had known Lamb for about 18 years and that he was a friend to Lamb when no one else was. Then he went on vacation and when he returned home found his 600-pound safe had been stolen. Witnesses identified Lamb in a police lineup as the thief, authorities said.

The safe contained 12 firearms, 10,000 rounds of ammunition, silver, a watch, 1/2 carat diamond and memorabilia. Police say that three of the 12 guns have been recovered as have some memorabilia. Prosecutors said they have knowledge of the guns being used in crimes in Chicago and Elk Grove Village. They fear what other crimes will be committed with the nine remaining guns unaccounted for.

Lamb has a lengthy criminal history that includes prison time for aggravated battery and drugs. However, he is best known as a key witness who testified against Mario Casciaro in two murder trials. His testimony landed Casciaro in prison in 2013 for the murder of Brian Carrick, 17. Carrick was last seen alive in Casciaro’s family grocery store in Johnsburg on Dec. 20, 2002. Lamb testified in those trials that at Casciaro’s direction he delivered what might have been a fatal punch to Carrick to collect on a $500 drug debt the night he disappeared. Carrick’s body has never been found.

Lamb has since recanted his story and Casciaro is appealing his conviction.

In court today there was no mention of the Casciaro case or Carrick.

Instead, Lamb apologized to Farenzena.

He told McHenry County Judge Sharon Prather that “I have been in and out of prison my whole life.” He said while he had a mentally ill mother, his father “tried his hardest” to raise him and his three brothers.

Lamb, recently diagnosed with bipolar, admitted that he has often turned to drugs and alcohol to deal with pain, especially when his son died of sudden infant death syndrome at just 45 days old and when his older brother committed suicide.

He said he would seek treatment for alcohol and drugs while in prison.

Lamb’s father, Dan Sinkovitz said his son was a good boy until age 14 when he was involved in an attempted robbery with another juvenile. In the robbery a woman was shot and injured. The other juvenile was sent to a rehabilitation center in Colorado, while his son served hard time in a St. Charles juvenile detention center, he said.

“It was a terrible place,” Sinkovitz said.

He said his son was incarcerated with older boys and that guards and other inmates beat him up regularly.

“He was there 3 1/2 years,” Sinkovitz said. “Fighting was a way of life. When he came out he was hardened.”

In asking for a 12 year sentence, Lamb’s attorney Paul De Luca said his client deserves a chance at rehabilitation and a life after prison.

“He is aware that if he commits another crime he faces life in prison,” De Luca said.
“He’s not just this raging maniac out here.”

De Luca noted that Lamb has a girlfriend waiting for him who he wants to build a life with and an ailing father who needs his help. He said Lamb is remorseful for steeling from Farenzena and he also worries about the guns being out on the street.

Calling Lamb “vile” and his defense “nonsense” and “a lot of excuses,” Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud rebuked any sentimental explanation of Lamb’s criminal history.

“Shane Lamb is being portrayed as a victim of the system … (somehow) we got it wrong … he is a victim,” Zalud said. “His dad said he helped him, his parents helped him, he has had support. How long do we have to pay until he learns how to grow up?”

Zalud said anytime Lamb is not in prison he is just playing “a waiting game for his next victim.”

“Shane Lamb is in a free fall,” Zalud said. “There is no bottom for this guy. He is going to continue to commit more crimes. He is incredibly selfish and he is incredibly violent.”

Prather acknowledged that Lamb had a rough life, but said it is his own fault that he continues to get into trouble.

“Your pain doesn’t justify you inflicting pain on others,” Prather said. “Everybody makes mistakes … this is going to be your fourth trip to (prison). If you don’t change your life … you will spend your life in prison or die.”

Lamb listened intently and nodded his head as Prather spoke directly to him.

“The court does not take pleasure in handing down heavy sentences, but you brought this on yourself,” Prather said.

Lamb also must pay $15,000 to Farenzena for restitution. He will receive one year’s credit for time served since his arrest last April. He is required to serve 50 percent of the sentence, so he could be out of prison in nine years.

Shane Lamb -key witness in Brian Carrick disappearance case- pleads guilty to firearm charges

Shane Lamb — a key witness in the infamous 2002 disappearance and presumed murder of a Johnsburg teenager — pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated possession of a stolen firearm in a separate case.

Lamb, 30, faces six to 40 years in prison when he is sentenced March 19. Lamb took a blind plea which means he does not know what his sentence will be.

In exchange for the guilty plea, McHenry County prosecutors dropped three remaining felonies.

Please clip link below to read the full story.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/mchenry-woodstock-huntley/ct-shane-lamb-guilty-plea-met-20150105-story.html

William Carrick: The loyal father who looked on silently as lawyers battled over who killed his son 12 years ago has died

William Carrick, who has long been in the media since his 17-year-old son Brian disappeared in 2002, has died.

Mr. Carrick, 67, was found in his Johnsburg home just after 6 a.m. Tuesday by family members. Paramedics pronounced him dead at 6:28 a.m.. He died from a sudden cardiac death, according to McHenry County Coroner Anne Majewski.

His daughter Therese Carrick said her father’s death was “unexpected.”

She said the kind and sincere man everyone knew publicly is exactly who he was at home raising her and her 13 siblings.

“He was an awesome father, over all a genuine person,” she said. “He was honest and he cared about people, he was never fake. He was the same way with the family, he was sincere. He cared about all of us and we cared about him.”

Mr. Carrick and his wife Terry, 63, who died in 2009 from leukemia, raised their large Irish Catholic family in the two-story farmhouse that sets on Johnsburg Road, across from the grocery store where his son was last seen alive.

In 2013, Mario Casciaro, whose family owned the grocery store, was found guilty in connection with his murder and sentenced to 26 years in prison. His conviction was in large part secured by testimony from Shane Lamb, another employee at the grocery store. Lamb has recently recanted his testimony and is in county jail awaiting trial on unrelated weapons charges. Casciaro, housed in Menard Correctional Center, is appealing his conviction. Brian Carrick was last seen alive by his brother on Dec. 20, 2002, walking into the grocery store.

Megan Carrick, 37, of Riverwood said her dad “loved his kids” and his heart was broken over Brian’s loss.

“I think he came to live for his kids and when my brother disspaeared it destroyed him,” she said. “I think he tried really hard to reconcile Brian’s loss.”

She said her dad, a career electrician, was always “present,” creative, resourceful and playful. He made the most of everything even in a family with so little material things. He appreciated life and his family which also included six grandchildren.

Megan Carrick said even though her parents may not have known it at the time, she believes it was their mission in the world to create “14 exceptional kids.”

“I think the world is a better place because of what he did,” she said. “He raised a bunch of resilient people, people who have seen obstacles just as obstacles and we don’t let it encourage us to quit. He never got stuck. He always figured out the problem and he taught us about unconditional love because that is what he (gave).”

Brian Carrick was the 11th of 14 Carrick kids ranging in age from 24 to 41.

Up until recently, Mr. Carrick had attended most all court dates related to his son’s disappearance and Lamb’s current case.

He never said a word of anger or hate against those believed to be involved. He only wanted to know the truth.

In a 2007 Chicago Tribune article about his son’s then five year disappearance, Mr. Carrick said “I just want to know what happened. I’m not even angry anymore. I miss Brian, but I’ll see him soon enough.”