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.

Flashback to 2007 – My first interviews with William and Terry Carrick on the 5 year anniversary of Brian’s disappearance : Who knew all these years later where this story would be? Both Carricks have now died and still no one knows where Brian is.

Another season without answers Johnsburg teen disappeared in ’02

By Amanda Marrazzo | Special to the Chicago Tribune December 21, 2007

Time has only brought more pain to Terry Carrick instead of healing.

It has been five years since her youngest son, Brian, went missing from the family’s Johnsburg home. If his body had been found, she could have buried him. If someone had been charged with his death, maybe she could have forgiven.

“It is very difficult to forgive when you don’t know who you are forgiving,” she said. “It is important people keep talking, because someday someone with a conscience will not be able to carry [the truth] around any longer.”

Police say the teen, a junior at Johnsburg High School, was the victim of foul play.

“Somebody out there knows what happened, and at some point in time their conscience is going to make them come forward, and we would like to have that [be] sooner [rather] than later,” said Johnsburg Police Chief Ken Rydberg.

It was five days before Christmas 2002 and nothing seemed out of the ordinary at the large farmhouse where the 14 Carrick brothers and sisters celebrated the holidays.

Brian Carrick, 17, left the home Friday, Dec. 20, at 6:15 p.m. and walked across the road to Val’s Foods, where he worked stocking shelves. He cashed his $150 paycheck, bought a pizza and told a co-worker that he planned to rent a movie at the video store down the road and that he would be at home for the rest of the night. (update: these details have changed since this story ran, timeline is later, attorneys claim he went back to the store between 6:30and 6:45. The story also changed in that he bought the pizza earlier like 4:30 after cashing his check, went home ate it then went back out to the store)

He never arrived at the video store or returned home.

“I don’t even remember what I was doing and I didn’t even notice him leaving,” said William Carrick, Brian’s father. “There was no premonition.”

But Terry Carrick sensed something was wrong Saturday, when she found out he didn’t show up for work.

“Brian never missed work. If he was late he’d call. If they called for him to come in on his day off, he was out the door,” she said.

She went to the Johnsburg Police Department that afternoon and urged them to start looking for her son.

A day later, investigators found blood inside Val’s produce-storage space and on a trash compactor, which later was confirmed to be Brian’s blood.

Volunteers and dozens of investigators, including the FBI, searched areas Carrick was known to frequent. They also looked at a 2-mile stretch along the banks of the Fox River but found nothing.

Brian was the 11th in the family of nine boys and five girls. The children, ranging in age from 17 to 34, have suffered emotionally over the loss of their brother.

However, each has achieved successes. One is a film editor, another an electrical engineer, and two are occupational therapists.

Just as the last four seasons have been, this Christmas will be quiet. The tree has yet to be put up.

The family has found strength within their small town and around the world. Terry Carrick said there are churches in South Africa and Rome praying for her family. There have been knocks at the door from friends and strangers offering support.

On New Year’s Day 2003, more than 1,000 people attended a candlelight vigil outside the grocery store. On the one-year anniversary, a standing-room-only memorial service was held in St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Johnsburg.

A development in the case came this June. Mario A. Casciaro, 24, who worked with Brian at the grocery, was arrested on nine counts of perjury for lying to a grand jury in February about Brian’s disappearance.

Casciaro, of the 2700 block of Patricia Lane in McHenry, was arrested June 7 and released from police custody after posting $5,000 bail.

The perjury charges stem from “no” answers Casciaro gave when asked about the whereabouts of Carrick’s body and his disappearance, according to court records. Prosecutors said his answers contradict statements from other witnesses.

Casciaro is scheduled to appear in court Jan. 24 on motions filed to dismiss three of the perjury counts. Casciaro and his attorney could not be reached for comment. (update: he was acquitted of these charges, arrested later in 2010 and charged with murder, had two trials, hung jury in 2012, convicted of first-degree murder with intimidation in 2013, serving 26 years in prison, his conviction is on appeal)

“We still have Brian’s picture posted around the station as a reminder to keep [this case] in everyone’s mind,” Rydberg said.

Judge denies change of venue & special prosecutor for Shane Lamb – Trial set to begin Jan. 12

Shane Lamb -best known in McHenry County for providing testimony in a murder trial that landed a Fox Lake man in prison for 26 years – recently lost an attempt to have a special prosecutor try his latest felony when it goes to trial in January.

Lamb, also lost motions for a change of venue and the suppression of evidence that led to his arrest in April. He has been charged with residential burglary, possession of stolen firearms and being an “armed habitual criminal.” He is accused of stealing a safe containing guns and ammunition from the McHenry home of a friend.

His attorney Paul DeLuca argued that because Lamb has a long and sorted history with McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office and with Michael Combs, the chief of the county’s criminal division, he would not receive a fair trial.

Combs, whom DeLuca also subpoenaed to take the stand at the hearing which the judge denied, made a deal with Lamb in 2010 to tell a story that led to the conviction of Mario Casciaro, 31, in the 2002 disappearance and presumed death of Brian Carrick, 17. In exchange for his testimony, Lamb would never face charges in the case.

All three men worked at Val’s Foods, the Casciaro family grocery store, together and allegedly were selling drugs. Carrick, Lamb testified in two trials, was killed over a $500 drug debt he owed Casciaro. Carrick’s body was never found. He said, at Casciaro’s direction he argued with Carrick over the money. He then became angry and punched the boy and may have accidentally killed him inside a produce cooler at the grocery store. Casciaro, Lamb testified, told him he would take care of the body. Carrick’s body has never been found.

But in August Lamb, while sitting in jail awaiting trial for the unrelated theft case, recanted his testimony and said that Combs had coached him on what to tell jurors.

Combs has steadfastly denied any and all accusations made by Lamb.

DeLuca said because of this history with Combs and the state’s attorney’s office, Lamb would not be treated fairly in his upcoming trial.

He said although Combs would not be directly trying the case, attorneys in his office of whom he has control over, would be.

DeLuca motioned to call Combs as a witness during the hearing to ask him about his history with Lamb, but the judge denied that motion saying, having presided over both of Casciaro’s trials – the first ending in a mistrial in 2012 and the second resulting in his conviction in 2013 – she already knows all the details.

DeLuca wanted to ask Combs, given his history with Lamb, a five-time felon who never faced murder charges in the Carrick case, was he “directing his prosecutors in any way to seek the maximum sentence.”

“The defense has the right to challenge (Combs),” DeLuca said.

DeLuca said he has the right to call Combs to ask such questions and ask that he be removed from the case “if there is even an appearance of impropriety.”

He said given Lamb’s recantation in the Casciaro case, accusations against Combs and a recent incident in the courtroom when Lamb called Combs a “bully” there is “personal animus” against Lamb and “certainly an interest now to punish him more severely.”

Assistant State’s Attorney John Gibbons responded by saying that neither Lamb’s criminal history nor his involvement in Casciaro’s case have anything to do with his current situation and how the McHenry County prosecutors will handle it.

Lamb, he said, is the one with “personal animus” toward the prosecutors’ office.

He also is the one who committed a crime for which there is a range of penalties that he will now face, which have nothing to do with his history.

“There is no connection between (Carrick) murder and what he did with our office,” Gibbons said. “All issues and beliefs he has are based on things he has done himself. He chose it himself, he cannot prosecutor shop because he feels we are bullying him.”

To which Prather agreed stating this scenario does not meet certain criteria warranting a special prosecutor.

“This is a case about Shane Lamb,” Prather said. “The Casciaro case has nothing to do with this case. You cannot create cause based on your own actions. … Mr. Lamb has created any alleged (conflict) and he can’t create that conflict and then come here and complain.”

In his motion for change of venue, DeLuca noted more than 100 local newspaper articles and editorials written about Lamb and his long criminal history. He said “it would be a situation” in which he could not get a fair jury.

Assistant State’s Attorney Robert Zalud countered that it is more about Lamb’s own “ego” in believing that so many people are even aware of him.

Though he may be well known in the justice system, it does not mean he is as well known by the local jury pool, Zalud said.

“I think he will be shocked how many (people) don’t know or care about him, or forgot about him,” Zalud said.

Prather said that jurors will have to make a commitment to set aside what they may know and denied the motion for change of venue. However, she said she will reconsider the motion during jury selection if there appears to be an issue at the time of jury selection.

Prather also denied a motion to suppress evidence. DeLuca asked that the lineup in which he was identified by a neighbor be quashed. He said that the neighbor had been shown the same photo by the alleged victim prior to the police showing it to her in a lineup in which she identified Lamb as one who stole the safe.

A hearing has been set for Jan. 7 when DeLuca plans to argue motions to drop two counts of the indictment. He is expected to argue the state drop a class X charge of unlawful possession of weapons by a felon. The charge states that as a convicted felon he was in possession of a machine gun that was inside the safe he is alleged to have stolen. DeLuca states that there never was a machine gun inside the safe. He also will argue to dismiss a charge of “armed habitual criminal” because, DeLuca said, Lamb has never been convicted of a “forceable felony.”

Lamb’s father Dan Sinkovitz of Lake Bluff was present at the hearing.
He said his son has been treated unfairly by McHenry County prosecutors for years dating back to his first felony conviction of attempted murder when Lamb was just 14.

In that case Lamb was with another minor who shot at a woman in a local bakery. Though she lived, the boys were punished. One boy went off to a private treatment facility while Lamb when to a tough juvenile detention center in Illinois, he said.

His father believes that while the other boy went to a facility where he was rehabilitated, his son was sentenced to an institution where he was abused and beaten by tough street gang members.

Instead of rehabilitation, his son was hardened.

Sinkovitz said he tried to be there for his son, and help him get on the right path, but it seems, trouble always seemed to find him.

He said he is not surprised that the judge denied his son’s motions.

“It’s happened all along the way why shouldn’t it happen again,” he said.

Lamb’s January 12 trial is still set to go as planned.

Casciaro has maintained that he has no knowledge of what happened to Carrick and has pointed the finger at another Johnsburg man who died in 2012.

His case is still on appeal.

Johnsburg Illinois missing boy’s mystery continues: 12 years later no real answers, plenty of theories, peace for no one

While one attorney prepares a new trial for Shane Lamb, a key witness in the notorious 12-year-old Johnsburg missing person’s case, another attorney works to free the man she says was wrongfully convicted based on Lamb’s testimony.

Last week, a private attorney out of DuPage County working pro bono for Lamb who is being held in the McHenry County jail on $300,000 bond, filed motions before Judge Sharon Prather in preparation for Lamb’s January trial. De Luca is asking for a change in venue, disqualification the state’s attorney’s office from prosecuting Lamb and suppression of the line up in which Lamb was identified by a witness.

Lamb, charged with residential burglary, possession of stolen firearms and being an  “armed habitual criminal,” is facing upwards of about 40 years in prison if found guilty.  He is accused of stealing a safe from the McHenry  home of an acquaintance.  The safe, which has not yet been recovered, contained a number of guns and rounds of ammunition.

But Lamb’s story in the McHenry County courtroom began years earlier.

Besides his first felony conviction for attempted murder at the age of 14, and multiple convictions for drugs and battery charges — Lamb is best known locally as the star witness whose testimony landed Mario Casciaro, of  Fox Lake, in prison for 26 years for the 2002 murder of Brian Carrick, 17.

Lamb has recently recanted his story and claims to have been coached on what to say on camera in exchange for full immunity in Carrick’s disappearance and presumed death by chief of the criminal division for McHenry County Michael Combs.

Casciaro, 31, who sits in Menard Correctional Center, stood trial twice for the murder of Brian Carrick who worked with him in his family’s Johnsburg grocery store.

The first trial in 2012 ended in mistrial. In 2013 Casciaro was found guilty of first-degree murder by intimidation, what legal experts say is a rare conviction.

In both trials the case weighed predominately on Lamb’s testimony. Lamb, 30, said under oath that Casciaro was selling drugs in the small town by using kids like himself and Carrick.

When Carrick owed Casciaro a drug debt of nearly $500, Lamb said on Friday night Dec. 20, 2002, Casciaro called him to the store as the “enforcer” of the drug operation to help collect the money.

Lamb told two juries he argued with Carrick inside a produce cooler at the store and became violent when the boy argued back. Lamb testified he punched Carrick out cold. He said Carrick, who had a known heart condition for which he had open heart surgery when he was 10, “fell out.”

Lamb said he went down backward into the cooler bleeding and unconscious. Casciaro then told him to leave, which he did, and he never saw Carrick again. Lamb said that over the years he would ask Casciaro what happened to Carrick to which Casciaro would respond “don’t worry about it,” or “keep your mouth shut.”

Carrick’s body has never been found.

Lamb, who said he never meant to kill or hurt Carrick, maintained throughout both trials that he would not have been at the store that night had Casciaro not called him.

But today, Lamb, facing serious prison time on his new theft charges, said he lied on the stand in both trials.

He now claims he was never at the store that night and Casciaro also has no knowledge of what happened to Carrick. He further claims that Combs coached him on what to say in order to convict Casciaro.

Jonathan Masur,  law professor at the University of Chicago law school, said in order for Casciaro to be granted a new trial or be released from prison the judge first must believe Lamb’s new tale, but it’s likely she won’t.

“I have pages of law books littered with key witnesses who have later recanted their testimony and courts that have refused to believe the new information,” Masur said.

“If the judge is convinced that what (Lamb) is saying right now is correct … this is momentous this is enormously important,” Masur said.  “(Casciaro) could very well be released and get a new trial at which he might very well be acquitted. “If what (Lamb) is saying is truthful, then the police and prosecutors involved have committed crimes.”

But Masur added it is a “very big if” whether Prather will believe Lamb’s recantation. Prather, the presiding judge in both trials and other court matters related to this case, knows the history and the evidence.

Over the years, Lamb has been on record telling different stories about Carrick’s disappearance. In 2004 and 2006 he is documented as saying he knew nothing about the night Carrick disappeared. In 2007, Lamb told a Grand Jury he knew nothing about Carrick’s disappearance. In 2010, facing unrelated drug charges, he received his immunity deal, and under oath, gave the story that resulted in Casciaro’s conviction.

Additionally, Masur said, Lamb could lose his immunity and be indicted for murder.

“This sort of thing happens (frequently) and the judge might very well believe (Lamb) is now lying because he has very little to lose by lying,” Masur said citing Lamb’s latest case for which he is facing a decades-long prison sentence.  “The judge could think he is lying (now) trying to do (Casciaro) a favor.”

Combs rebuked Lamb’s accusations saying they are “illogical.” He vehemently denies ever being alone with Lamb. He equally discounts the assertion he ever coached him in anyway. “That is not plausible.” Combs said he has a sworn affidavit from Lamb’s former lawyer supporting his truthfulness.

In August, Lamb calling Combs a “bully” rejected a plea deal in his current case.

Lamb’s attorney, De Luca said Lamb is now telling the truth.

“He’s got nothing to gain. … He’s got everything to lose, everything, he’s (facing) a murder indictment,” De Luca said.

De Luca said Lamb never believed that his testimony would convict Casciaro and now feels responsible for him being in prison and wants to help get him freed. De Luca said Lamb has told him that on the night Carrick disappeared he was “at a party all night” and that, Casciaro never called him and that he never went back to the store. However, during both trials Lamb’s sworn testimony was corroborated by witnesses. One man said that after a night of drinking in 2006, he asked Casciaro what happened to Carrick. The man testified at both trials that Casciaro told him the very story that Lamb told on the stand in both trials. Another man said he argued with Casciaro in a bar one night and Casciaro told him he’d better watch it because he “makes people disappear.”

Kathleen Zellner, Casciaro’s appellate attorney, discounts these witnesses’ testimony alleging they had deals with prosecutors to tell their stories. Zellner also claims Casciaro’s attorneys were not given all the evidence or names of witnesses in the case.

Calling the allegations “ridiculous” Combs said Casciaro’s defense attorneys had knowledge of all evidence and witnesses since 2007 when he was charged with perjury in connection with Carrick’s disappearance. Casciaro was acquitted of those charges.

Zellner theorizes that another employee, Rob Render, attacked Carrick with a box cutter, shoved his body into a garbage can and rolled the can out back of the store. She said someone later would have come to pick up the garbage can and dispose of the boy’s body.

But Combs, who said Render is being used by the Casciaros as a “scapegoat” counters Zellner’s theory as “idiotic, to say a 17-year-old kid without a car could dispose of a body.”

An attorney who represented Render in 2008 when he was charged with concealment of a homicide in Carrick’s disappearance– charges that later were dropped — said Zellner’s accusations are “unconscionable.”

“He was a junky, he was a stoner … he had a difficult childhood,” said George Kililis. “Otherwise he was a very gentle kid, he was kind … there was not a bad bone in his body. This is the kind of kid who would never hurt anyone.”

Kililis completely discounts Zellner’s theory and said he will always defend Render’s innocence. He said her theory is implausible pointing out that there is no way Render, a small framed boy at the time, could have secretly disposed of Carrick’s body and cleaned up all the blood that would have spilled from Carrick had he been sliced with a knife.

He said the shadow of Carrick’s death followed Render throughout his life and likely led to his heroin overdose in 2012.

“He told me privately part of the reason he turned to heroin was because he could never get away from this as much as he tired,” Kililis said. “Everybody thought he knew something about this, they tortured this kid. … I want them to leave my guy alone in his grave … I want them to leave him alone.”

Zellner and Combs recently entered an “agreed order” to have clothing items tested for DNA that had been retrieved from Render’s garbage can by a surveillance team six days after Carrick went missing.

“I have nothing to hide so I will not oppose testing,” Combs said.

Zellner had hoped to have a pair of “soiled” underwear also tested for DNA. She believed that the underwear would link authorities to whoever murdered Carrick. Authorities said the underwear were found above a ceiling tile in the bathroom of the grocery store.

However, the underwear won’t be tested because they no longer exist, authorities have said.

“We are outraged that the (Johnsburg Police Department) threw out the most crucial piece of evidence in this case so far, the bloody underwear,” Casciaro’s sister Julia Casciaro-Mulle wrote in a letter. “We strongly believe that the DNA testing of this underwear could clear Mario. We want to know what happened to it.”

Combs said this should have come as no surprise to the Casciaros.

“The Casciaro family has known that underwear has been gone for seven years because their attorney was provided that information in discovery in 2007 when (Cassciaro) was charged with perjury,” Comb said.

Zellner said she and Combs have met and discussed the case.

“The more cooperation there is the more likely we are to get to the truth of what happened,” Zellner said.

At a later date Zellner said she will file an amended petition for post conviction relief in McHenry County based, in part on Lamb’s new story. She also is appealing Casciaro’s conviction in the Second District Appellate Court based. This appeal is, in part, based on forensic evidence from the 2013 trial. She claims, among other allegations, that the blood patterns found do not match what experts say would have happened had Carrick been punched. Zellner believes the murder did not happen in the cooler as authorities have maintained for more than a decade, but that it happened in the hallway leading to a back exit door.

Rob Render Senior testified at trial that his son came home that night right after work and never went back out. A fellow co-worker who drove Render home that night said he did not notice blood or cuts on Render.  Though defense attorneys pointed to him throughout the first trial, Render Jr. had never been called to testify. He died of a heroin overdose before the second trial.

Zellner says Casciaro was accounted for throughout the evening, while Render was missing for two hours, and Render’s blood was found inside the cooler.

Combs said there were a couple “very, very” tiny drops of Render’s blood found and that there is no way of knowing how old that blood was. Combs also said that no one ever claimed to have seen Render bleeding that night. In fact, Combs said, Casciaro under sworn testimony before a Grand Jury, said he never saw any blood or cuts on Render that night.

Masur described what Combs did in this case, as “extraordinary and completely within legal bounds.”

“It is rare for a crime like intimidation to be used as the underlying felony,” he said.
The charge is a way to “rope in people who were peripheral pieces to this murder.”
He said likely Combs believed Casciaro “was a really bad guy.”

After Lamb recanted his story the Carrick family was contacted. A sibling said the family has no comment. Bill Carrick, Brian’s father, still lives in the family home across the road from the grocery store where his son was last seen alive.

Lamb’s next court date is Dec. 12. Casciaro’s attorneys are expected back in the McHenry Courtroom in January.

To learn more on the case visit link (below) to ABC 2020 feature “Mystery on Johnsburg Road.”;_ylt=AwrBT8dGAWxUbb0AcwJXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0bjAxNjdrBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA1ZJUDIyN18x?p=abc+mystery+on+johnsburg+road