Man freed from prison after reversal of murder conviction of Johnsburg Ill. teen suing for “millions”

Mario Casciaro – convicted and sentenced to 26 years in prison for the 2002 murder of a Johnsburg Ill. teen and later released – is suing those who brought on his conviction for “millions” of dollars.

After two murder trials, the first ending in a hung jury, Casciaro, 33,
was convicted in 2013 for the murder of 17-year-old Brian Carrick in a mysterious case that has rattled the quiet far northwest town.

The jury found Casciaro guilty of the rarely used charge of murder with intimidation, meaning he set into motion the events that led to Carrick’s death.

Carrick worked as a stock boy at a grocery store across the street from his home on Johnsburg Road. He was a well-liked boy who grew up in a large Irish Catholic family with 13 siblings.

The store, at the time named “Val’s Finer Foods” was partially owned by the Casciaro family. Authorities have long said that Casciaro sold pot from the grocery store and used Carrick as one of his dealers.

During both trials, a third co-worker, Shane Lamb the alleged “muscle” of the operation according to prosecutors, said Casciaro summoned him to the store on the night of Dec. 20 2002 to “talk” to Carrick about a drug dealing debt.

The confrontation turned violent and Lamb testified that he punched Carrick knocking him unconscious on the floor inside a produce cooler. He said Casciaro told him to leave the store and he would take care of the body.

Lamb said he never saw Carrick again.

Carrick’s blood was located in an around the cooler area and on boxes in a dumpster outside the store – but his body has never been found.

Rumors of his disappearance and presumed murder swirled around the small town nestled near the Wisconsin border for nearly a decade before Casciaro’s arrest.

In 2010, while facing a lengthy prison term in an unrelated drug case, Lamb — with a growing rap sheet who gave varying accounts to authorities over the years of what happened to Carrick — was given a deal to testify against Casciaro in exchange for immunity.

But, in a nationalized television program, while in jail facing weapons charges, Lamb recanted the tale he told on the stand twice and accused prosecutors of telling him what to say to convict Casciaro — accusations prosecutors vehemently deny.

About a year later, Casciaro was released from prison after an appellate court ruled that the state’s case was improbable and Lamb’s testimony did not match the physical evidence found at the scene.

The appellate judges also believed Casciaro’s lawyer Kathleen Zellner who asserted there was blood evidence and testimony that the jury never heard that did not match up with Lamb’s story. She claims blood evidence shows Carrick died not by a punch and fall to the cold, concrete floor, but by a knife wound to the neck.

Zellner pointed the finger at another store employee, whose blood also was found in and around the cooler. In earlier police interviews this man was asked why his blood would be found in the cooler and he said he often bit his nails low and he would bleed. This man was never charged with the murder and had died of a drug overdose while staying in a halfway house sometime between the two trials. In 2008, he was charged with concealment in the case but those charges were later dropped.

In the lawsuit, Casciaro is seeking monetary damages from Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Combs, McHenry County and the entire McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office, as well as Johnsburg Police Chief Keith Von Allmen, the city of Johnsburg and the entire Johnsburg Police Department.

In the lawsuit, Zellner accuses authorities of “deliberately withholding” exculpatory evidence including this other co-workers behavior in the days after Carrick went missing and his alleged absence during his work shift. She wrote that evidence was not shown to jurors that would have shone light on this man as the “actual culprit.”

The lawsuit also accuses Von Allmen of being biased in the investigation because he was friends with this man’s father. The motion further claims interviews were not reported or presented to jurors regarding witnesses where it was supposedly said that this man had “hostility” toward Carrick.

Zellner, who requested a jury trial in the civil matter, also made strong claims that Combs out of his “sheer dislike” of Casciaro “fabricated” and “concocted” the story that jurors heard Lamb testify to. She claims that authorities knew Casciaro was innocent and ignored evidence that could have been presented to jurors to show his innocence.

Zellner claims that Casciaro’s ”unjust conviction” was done “intentionally” and was a violation of his rights resulting in a loss of his freedom, emotional distress, great mental anguish … humiliation, indignities, and embarrassment … natural psychological development … personal contact .. personal fulfillment … .”

The McHenry County State’s Attorney’s office firmly stands by its prosecution of Casciaro and zealously denies any wrongdoing or fabrication of any type.

Prosecutors have argued their case was not based solely on Lamb’s account of what happened that night -as Zellner asserts- but also by testimony of several other witnesses who testified that Casciaro was selling marijuana out of the store and Carrick owed him money. During the trials they identified one man who claimed he saw the two allegedly arguing that night. Prosecutors also stand by one witness who testified that Casciaro allegedly claimed that he can “make people disappear.” They also note to another  witness who testified that Casciaro allegedly told him a similar account of what happened the night Carrick went missing. They further point to Casciaro’s own alleged unaccounted for whereabouts for a period of time that night and his own inconsistent stories and behavior during police interviews as disinterested and arrogant.

Authorities in the case say they are not surprised by the latest motion.

“We knew this was coming,” said McHenry County State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally who along with Combs prosecuted Casciaro. “This is an opportunistic lawsuit filed on behalf of a defendant convicted of felony murder by a McHenry County jury. The allegations in the lawsuit, while imaginative, are entirely without merit. We are eager for our day in court to prove where the real injustice lies and, once again, the sad truth about what happened to Brian Carrick in 2002.”

Casciaro’s release was held up by the Illinois Supreme Court which denied the state’s objection.

Casciaro, who is currently attending law school, also is seeking a certificate of innocence from the county. In an earlier court hearing Kenneally passionately argued that just because the appellate court ruled there was not sufficient evidence to convict Casciaro “beyond a reasonable doubt” that  is a “far cry from declaring him innocent.”  This matter will be back in court May 11.

Carrick’s parents, William and Terry, both have died not knowing what happened to their son or allowed the opportunity to properly bury or grieve him.

Neither Von Allmen nor Carrick’s family could be reached for comment.

In past statements, a family member of the co-worker on whom Zellner places the blame for Carrick’s death, has strongly defended his innocence. He was not identified by name in this story because he was not charged with murder, never testified in the Casciaro case and has since died.  The relative and the man’s former lawyer have voiced strong opposition and disgust with this man being used as a “scapegoat” in Carrick’s death, and have asked that his name not continue to be tarnished.  The female relative has described this man as a son, brother and father and proclaimed he had nothing to do with Carrick’s murder.

Man released from prison after murder conviction of Johnsburg teen, seeks to be declared “innocent”

Mario Casciaro was released from prison after his conviction for the murder of his teenage co-worker was overturned, but authorities in McHenry County are balking at formally declaring him innocent.

Casciaro — the only person ever convicted in the 2002 disappearance of 17-year-old Brian Carrick — wants a McHenry County judge to grant him a certificate of innocence. But the prosecutors who took Casciaro to trial three times before getting a guilty verdict — once for perjury and twice for murder — have formally opposed the certificate.

If granted, the court document would allow Casciaro to seek compensation from the state for the 22 months he spent in Menard Correctional Center before his conviction for murder with intimidation — a rarely used charge — was reversed on appeal. Innocence certificates can also help exonerated former inmates get employment and generally reintegrate into society.

“It is unfortunate that the McHenry (County) state’s attorney continues to deny this grave miscarriage of justice,” said Casciaro’s attorney, Kathleen Zellner, who has won several high-profile murder conviction reversals and now represents Steve Avery, the Wisconsin man from the “Making a Murderer” Netflix series. “We are confident Mr. Casciaro will prevail, even if we have to take this matter all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.”

But prosecutors argue that, although the appeals court determined they lacked sufficient evidence to convict Casciaro, that doesn’t mean he is “actually innocent.”

Casciaro “wishes to cast himself as the victim. He is not. The real victim is lying nameless in an unmarked, unhallowed grave,” prosecutors wrote, in reference to the fact that Carrick’s remains have never been recovered. “The defendant’s disinterest, deceit and contempt … during the investigation exposed his callousness and consciousness of guilt.”

Prosecutors further argued in their 300-page motion that, “even conceding that the state’s evidence of guilt was weak, it does not follow that (Casciaro) is innocent. Rather, (he) must still present evidence of actual innocence that overrides evidence of guilt. (Casciaro) offers no exculpatory physical or DNA evidence, no credible alibi during the time of the attack or thereafter, and no new witnesses or information.”

The case has attracted national attention and has become one of the most notorious murder mysteries in McHenry County. Carrick disappeared days before Christmas 2002 after being seen at the Johnsburg grocery store where he worked with Casciaro, whose family was part owner.

Authorities contended at Casciaro’s two murder trials that Carrick had been dealing marijuana for Casciaro and that he ordered another co-worker, Shane Lamb, to confront Carrick about a debt he owed. Lamb testified that- at both murder trials- he delivered a fatal punch to Carrick inside a grocery store cooler. At Casciaro’s second murder trial in 2013,  Casciaro was convicted of first-degree murder with intimidation and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Prosecutors told jurors that if it were not for Casciaro- acting as the “kingpin”of a drug dealing operation and putting into motion the wheels that led to Carrick’s death- Carrick would not have been killed.

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

Lamb, who received immunity in the case but is now in prison on an unrelated weapons charge, later said he lied on the witness stand under pressure from prosecutors seeking to convict Casciaro of the murder, a claim officials have vehemently denied.

In their objection to Casciaro’s innocence certificate, prosecutors called Casciaro’s conviction reversal “problematic” and “imprudent.” They cited, for example, witness testimony that supported Lamb’s account, as well as a polygraph test Casciaro took that prosecutors say showed Casciaro being deceptive. They also noted letters Lamb wrote to a local newspaper – while in jail on the weapons’ charges- where he wrote he felt remorse for what happened to Carrick.

They cited trial testimony from one witness who said he saw Casciaro and Carrick arguing that night, as well as testimony from various former grocery store employees,  who said  that Casciaro was selling marijuana and that Carrick worked for him. Prosecutors also pointed to testimony that Carrick owed Casciaro money at the time he disappeared and that Lamb worked as an “enforcer” in Casciaro’s drug business.

In overturning the conviction outright last year, the appellate court noted, among several factors, the lack of physical evidence to convict Casciaro. They also questioned Lamb’s credibility and said his account did not prove intimidation by Casciaro. Additionally, they wrote that details of the alleged physical altercation did not match 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.

Prosecutors, however, said Lamb only recanted and claimed he was told what to testify because he was upset about the prospect of a lengthy prison sentence for the weapons charges. They also noted that he had learned he would be featured on a national TV news program about the Carrick case and wanted to “leverage the notoriety and exposure to undercut his prosecution.”

In her appeal, Zellner sought to cast suspicion on another grocery store co-worker, who has since died, as the possible killer. She noted that this man’s blood was found near the crime scene and that he had motive.  Prosecutors called that theory “fantastical” and said it did not match the facts of the case.

After Casciaro’s release from prison in September, prosecutors attempted to have their case heard at the Illinois Supreme Court but were denied.

Carrick’s disappearance and the drawn-out aftermath — nearly eight years went by before Casciaro was charged with the murder — have long been a source of interest and grief in the small town, where both families were well-known. Carrick was one of 14 siblings and his family lived across the street from the grocery store where he was likely killed. His mother, Terry, died months before Casciaro’s arrest. His father, William, saw Casciaro convicted of murdering his son but died before the conviction was overturned.

Prosecutors noted those turns of events in their objection.

“Since Brian’s disappearance … both of his parents have gone to their grave without ever having known their son’s ultimate fate,” they wrote, adding his siblings remain “haunted” by his presumed death.

The filing also noted that the attention given in recent years to wrongful convictions “has aroused a healthy skepticism of convictions reached without” DNA evidence or a firsthand witness account.

“It is important not to attribute injustices elsewhere to circumstances here,” prosecutors wrote. They added that, “If one accepts the criminal justice system is imperfect” and sometimes convicts the wrong person, it follows that the same system sometimes “acquits those who are guilty, in fact.”

Since his release from prison Casciaro, now 33, has pursued admittance to law school and his family has opened up another grocery store in McHenry County.

*I welcome anyone with information/thoughts on this case to contact me.

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.

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.

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


Mario Casciaro gets 26 years in prison

I’ve been following this case for the Chicago Tribune, for many years, years before Brian Carrick’s mom, Terry, died and was able to see an arrest in the death and disappearance of her 17-year-old son. Lawyers are planning an appeal for Mario Casciaro, who also was just a young man when Carrick disappeared from his family’s grocery store.  The end all result of this senseless tragedy is that two families are in pain because of the actions of children, teenagers, kids really by all definition, who acted without thought for their actions. These are not bad people, but people who got caught up in bad behaviors. Please read story currently online at the Chicago Tribune. There will be updates throughout the day. Until next time …..

Updated print version of Mario Casciaro story,0,4953168.story,0,1455576.story