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Murder trial of missing McHenry County teen could prove tough for prosecutors

William Carrick outside former Val's Grocery Store across street where he his sBrian 17 lived where Brian was last seen

William Carrick outside the former Val's Grocery Store, across the street where he and his son, Brian, 17, lived and where Brian was last seen alive. | Dan Rozek~Sun-Times

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Updated: February 22, 2012 8:06AM

More than nine years after his teenage son disappeared from the McHenry County grocery store where he worked, William Carrick still is looking for answers.

He hopes he’ll find some beginning next week when the man charged with murdering 17-year-old Brian Carrick stands trial for his son’s 2002 disappearance and presumed death.

“I don’t harbor any animosity or want any revenge,” said the 64-year-old Carrick, who still lives in the family’s sprawling frame house in Johnsburg, a town of about 7,000 people in northern McHenry County. “I’d like to know what happened.”

But the unusual trial of 28-year-old Mario Casciaro — who worked with Brian at Val’s Foods — may not provide the ending for which Carrick has long waited.

Brian’s body had never been found, though some of his blood was discovered in a storage cooler at the store, which sits just across the street from the house where Carrick and his late wife, Terry, raised their 14 children.

The case against Casciaro appears to hinge largely on statements he purportedly made to a friend about Carrick’s disappearance and the testimony of another friend who allegedly implicated Casciaro in the killling, court records indicate, though a gag order prevents attorneys from discussing the case.

Those statements allegedly indicate Casciaro ordered a friend to scare Carrick into paying money he owed Casciaro for drug purchases, court records show.

And in another strange twist, Casciaro already has been acquitted of perjury charges for allegedly lying to the grand jury probing Brian’s Dec. 20, 2002 disappearance.

Those felony charges were based on statements Casciaro made in which he denied knowing anything about Carrick’s disappearance or where his body might be, according to court documents.

That 2009 acquittal could help bolster Casciaro’s defense that he wasn’t involved in Brian’s disappearance — but only if defense attorneys manage to find a way to present that to jurors hearing the trial.

“Ordinarily, it would be brutally hard to bring that in,” said DePaul University law professor Leonard Cavise.

Casciaro’s attorneys also could argue there’s no proof Carrick is even dead, particularly since the amount of blood found in the store isn’t believed to be enough to prove Carrick suffered fatal injuries there.

There is no other physical evidence — specifically his body — to prove the teen is dead.

But murder prosecutions have succeeded even without a victim’s body, experts said.

“The blood evidence is surely going to help,” said Ronald Allen, a Northwestern University law professor. “You don’t need a body to prove a death occurred.”

Prosecutors may face problems with a key witness, Shane Lamb, who purportedly tied Casciaro to the killing. Lamb has a string of felony convictions and agreed to testify after cutting a deal with prosecutors that saw him receive a six-year prison term on a drug case but didn’t hold him responsible for any actions related to Carrick’s disappearance and death.

That could affect his credibility when he testifies, experts said.

“It’s going to be a very tough case for prosecutors,” said Cavise.

Defense attorney Brian Telander, declined to comment on the case in advance of the trial.

Prosecutor Michael Combs likewise declined to comment.

Neither Casciaro, who is free on $5 million bail, nor his family could be reached for comment.

It’s going to be tough for Carrick’s family to sit through the two-week trial, which begins Monday with jury selection.

But William Carrick said he simply wants answers and the satisfaction of finally seeing a conclusion to the heart-breaking case.

“The children and myself are in the same state of mind, we’d all like it see it over and done with it.” he said, but added some of his kids want someone held responsible for Brian’s disappearance.

“I know most of my kids would like to see a conviction,” Carrick said. “But it’s not important to me that Mario go to jail for this.”

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