A 17 years old boy, Brain Carrick, disappeared on December 20, 2002, he was last seen at Val’s Foods (“Val’s”), a store in Johnsburg, Illinois, where he and Mario Casciaro both worked.
On Sunday, December 22, 2002, the police determined that a crime had been committed in the area of the produce cooler at Val’s Foods.
Brian Carrick’s body has never been found.
Sergeant Patrick Phillips, a crime scene investigator with the Illinois State Police, processed Val’s Foods for evidence. Phillips photographed the interior and exterior of Val’s Foods. The photographs depict the following: blood spatter low (beneath the level of the produce cooler’s door handle) on the north wall of the south hallway, between the tool room and the produce cooler; a bloody fingerprint on the produce cooler’s exterior door handle (hallway side) and blood on the exterior of the produce cooler’s door; blood on the produce cooler’s door jamb; blood on the inside of the produce cooler’s door, slightly above the handle and toward the center of the door; blood on the bottom of the inside of the produce cooler’s door; a metal rack stacked with boxes of “New Star Premium Celery,” inside the produce cooler; blood smears on the celery boxes; blood on a leg of the metal rack holding the celery boxes; a pool of water on the produce cooler’s floor flowing toward the north wall of the cooler; the inside of the southeast exit door; the exterior of the southeast exit door; a dumpster on the north truck dock; and cardboard boxes, some bloody, within the dumpster. The crime laboratory established a DNA profile for Carrick.
In 2010, Casciaro was indicted for Carrick’s murder. The case was tried between January 24, 2012, and February 1, 2012, when the court declared a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a verdict.
He was tried again, in 2013, and convicted for Felony murder predicated on intimidation and sentenced to 26 years of prison.
One of the state’s theories for the predicate offense of intimidation was that Shane Lamb was the instrument of Casciaro’s intimidation of Carrick. During Casciaro’s second trial, Lamb testified for the state. Lamb had been granted full immunity by the state for Carrick’s death. Lamb testified that on the date Carrick was last seen, Casciaro had called and asked him to come to Val’s to talk to Carrick about money Brian owed Mario. He testified that when he got to Val’s, he found Casciaro and Carrick arguing about the money. Lamb testified that he (Lamb) then started arguing with Carrick, lost his temper and hit Carrick and thought he had knocked him out. At that point, Lamb testified Casciaro told Lamb to leave the store.
There was blood from a second person on the produce cooler’s door jamb, on the southeast exit door, and in the bloody fingerprint on the produce cooler’s door handle. The second person was identified through DNA analysis as Robert Render, a stock boy at Val’s Foods, whom witnesses placed at the store on the day that Carrick disappeared.
Render died in May 2011.
The evidences showed that Casciaro “fronted” small amounts of marijuana to both Brian Carrick and Shane Lamb, which they then sold. They were supposed to use their proceeds to pay him.
On September 2015, after his second appeal, Mario Casciaro was released from prison.
The gist of Mario Casciaro’s appeal was that the police chief, Keith Von Allmen ignored overwhelming evidence that Brian Carrick was killed by Robert Render, Jr. and, despite the lack of evidence against Mario Casciaro, diverted the investigation from Robert Render to pursue Mario Casciaro because he was a friend of Render’s father.
Casciaro contends that he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
The Judges of the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, concluded:
“Because the State’s evidence was insufficient to prove defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, we reverse defendant’s conviction of first-degree murder”.
Mario Casciaro gave an interview to 20/20 while he was still at the Menard Correctional Center, an Illinois state prison located in the town of Chester in Randolph County:
What we look for in this interview is for Mario Casciaro to issue a reliable denial, to say “I didn’t kill Brian” not simply parroting back the interviewer’s words but in the free editing process and we look for him to show the protection of the “wall of truth”.
The “wall of truth” is an impenetrable psychological barrier that often leads innocent people to few words, as the subject has no need to persuade anyone of anything.
We begin every statement analysis expecting truth, and it is the unexpected that confronts us as possibly deceptive.
Journalist: Brian Carrick’s family believe you belong here.
This question is good to allow Casciaro to say “I didn’t kill Brian Carrick”, “I didn’t cause Brian’s disappearance”, “I don’t know where Brian’s body is” and “I am telling the truth”. This would be the “wall of truth”.
Mario Casciaro: If the allegations are repeated over and over and over again for six, seven years, you begin to believe it as a fact.
A deceptive person will alter his denial to avoid a direct lie.
Note that Casciaro is unable to deny the allegations. He doesn’t say “I didn’t kill Brian” which was expected.
A reliable denial has 3 components:
1. the pronoun “I”
2. past tense verb “did not” or “didn’t”
3. accusation answered
If a denial has more than 3 or less than 3 components, it is no longer reliable.
“No, I did not kill Brian” followed by “I told the truth” while addressing the denial, it would more than 99% likely to be true.
Journalist: The Carricks believe that, you know, where Brian’s body is.
This second question is good too to allow Casciaro to say “I didn’t kill Brian Carrick”, “I didn’t cause Brian’s disappearance”, “I don’t know where Brian’s body is” and “I am telling the truth”.
Mario Casciaro: It’s sad that they think that, it’s sad that… uhm… that they would ever think something like that and I really hope that we find Brian.
Note that the question is avoided. He goes beyond the answer.
Note that Casciaro is not able to say “I don’t know where Carrick’s body is” which was expected.
“it’s sad that uhm…” is a broken sentence, an indication of missing information, deliberately withheld.
“uhm” is a non word, it is a pause to think, a signal that indicates that the question is sensitive to Casciaro.
The presence of “really”, a qualifier, in “and I really hope that we find Brian” indicates that “to find Brian” is sensitive to Casciaro.
Note that, till now, Mario Casciaro never denied his involvement in Brian’s murder, on the contrary, he accepts a possible guilt, something that is not expected from an innocent.
Mario Casciaro: I’m not a criminal, nobody in my family has ever been in handcuffs, I’m the first and that include the extended family as well.
Casciaro is unable to say “I didn’t kill Brian” or “I don’t know where Brian’s body is” and he is unable to say “I’m a good guy” too because he doesn’t consider himself a “good guy”, he believes to be just “not a criminal”. Anyway, the meaning of the word “criminal” is subjective.
Casciaro’s need to persuade throught the story of his family shows that he doesn’t have the protection of the “wall of truth”.
Mario Casciaro: He is good guy uhm… good family, worked hard, one of my favourite co-workers.
“He is good guy uhm…” is a broken sentence, an indication of missing information, deliberately withheld.
This answer is key.
Note that Casciaro speaks of Brian at the present tense “He is good guy uhm” although he knows since 2002 that the police found Carrick’s blood in the area of the produce cooler at Val’s Foods and determined that a crime had been committed.
He previously said “I really hope that we find Brian”.
Mario Casciaro’s need to convince his audience that Brian is still alive against the evidences reveals his involvement in Brian Carrick’s murder.
Mario Casciaro: And Brian was looking for Robert Render and he asked me if I had seen him and I mean and “Where is this guy?”, and I paged him and that was the last time I saw him.
“that was the last time I saw him” is similar to “that’s all I know” and to “and that was it”, is an unnecessary closing, often used when a subject wants to stop the flow of information. This is often seen in guilty statements in which the subject does not want any more information to be revealed about the topic.
Journalist: Did you kill Brian Carrick?
This is a “Yes” or “No” question.
Mario Casciaro: Absolutely not.
“Absolutely not” is an unreliable denial. Mario is unable to say “No” and the use of the word “absolutely” makes his answer sensitive as he has a need to persuade.
Journalist: Are you responsible in any way for his death?
This is a “Yes” or “No” question. Note that he journalist used the word “responsible”.
Mario Casciaro: No.
Mario Casciano is able to say “No” because the journalist used the wrong word. The word “responsible” allowed Casciaro to say “No”. Casciaro was able to say ”No” because he didn’t directly cause Brian’s death. The right word to use in the question could have been the more generic “involved”. The journalist knew, before the interview, that Casciaro had been convicted for “Felony murder predicated on intimidation” and upon this he had to choose his own words.
Journalist: Police believe that sometime you called Shane Lamb. Did you ever called?
Mario Casciaro: No. We actually gave them my phone records and showed them that there was no call.
Casciaro doesn’t say that he didn’t call Shane Lamb, he just says that “there was no call on his phone”. In “Yes” or “No” questions, we count every word after the word “No” as unnecessary and weakening the response.
Journalist: Shane on you urging to talk to him has an altercation with Brian Carrick, punches up him a few times lays him out, you tell Shane: “Go, I’ll take care of this”. Any truth to that?
Mario Casciaro: Not at all, I didn’t even see Shane in the building that evening, why would I say: “Yeah, buddy, let me take care”, I don’t even know that kid, “Let me just take of a murder for you”, be serious, you know, what I mean?!
Casciaro doesn’t say that he didn’t see Shane that evening, he just says that he didn’t see him “in the building that evening”.
His repetition of “Yeah, buddy, let me take care”, “Let me just take of a murder for you” increases the sensitivity and represents an embedded admission. Mario made a crucial correction to what the journalist said, he added the word “murder”. The origin of the word “murder” is Mario himself.
Deceptive people often give embedded admission, believing that being sarcastic about the allegations instead of trying to deny it, could help them. The need to ridicule the allegation rather than deny it is indicative of guilt.
“You know” shows an acute awareness of the interviewer at this question.
Casciaro doesn’t deny his involvement in Brian Carrick’s murder.
The absence of a denial, it is a concern. If someone is unable or unwilling to say that he didn’t do it, we are not permitted to say so for him.
Casciaro accepts what the de facto innocent doesn’t accept: he allows people to believe he is involved. There is no “wall of Truth” within Mario Casciaro. This is why he allows blame to be put upon him.
Mario Casciaro has guilty knowledge of what happened to Brian Carrick.
Ursula Franco, MD and criminologist