Details of Disappearance
Brian left his home in the 4000 block of North Johnsburg Road in Johnsburg, Illinois between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. on December 20, 2002 and headed across the street to Val's Foods, where he worked as a stocker. He had asked a coworker to switch hours with him that night, but was turned down. No one saw Brian leave the store. He was reported missing by his parents at 2:45 p.m. the next day. They had noticed his absence at 8:00 a.m. that morning, but had thought he was at work until 11:45 when someone from Val's Foods called them and they realized Brian was not there.
The day after Brian's disappearance, an employee at Val's Foods discovered a pool of about a half-liter of watery blood in the produce cooler. He told his boss, who thought it was meat drippings (excess meat at Val's Foods was occasionally stored in the produce cooler, particularly around Christmastime) and had him clean it up. Only after Brian was reported missing did anyone realize the significance of the find. Additional drops of blood were located both inside and outside the cooler, on several produce boxes throughout the store, and on some boxes in the trash compactor. Police were able to get traces of blood from the mopped area. DNA testing confirmed that the blood was Brian's.
Brian appeared to be in good spirits the day he disappeared. He cashed his $150 paycheck, bought pizza and told a cashier he planned to rent some movies. His family and friends say it is uncharacteristic of him to leave without warning. He was a junior at Johnsburg High School at the time that he disappeared, and was described as a well-behaved teenager and an exemplary employee. When he vanished he left behind about $1,000 in the bank which he had saved from years of working various jobs.
In June 2007, authorities announced a major breakthrough in his case when Mario A. Casciaro was charged with perjury in connection with his grand jury testimony about Brian's disappearance. He was Brian's supervisor at Val's Foods. Prosecutors stated he lied to the grand jury when he denied having told a friend that he knew how Brian was killed and how his body was concealed. In August 2008 another former Val's Foods employee was charged with concealing Brian's homicide. The case against him was later dropped, however.
Casciaro was tried in August 2009. His friend, Alan Lippert, stated Casciaro told him Brian owed him drug money and he told a friend, Shane Lamb, to scare him, but things got out of hand and Brian died. Casciaro allegedly said his relatives helped him dispose of the body, which was initially buried but later dug up, dismembered and thrown into a river in Iowa. Lippert admitted he'd been drinking heavily the night Casciaro supposedly confessed to him. He didn't tell the police about the conversation until after he was arrested for driving under the influence, but he stated he came forward out of conscience and wasn't offered leniency for his testimony. While Casciaro was on trial for the charges, the presiding judge tossed them out, ruling that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
In February 2010, just months after being acquitted of perjury, Casciaro was charged with first-degree murder in Brian's case. Authorities believe Casciaro, Lamb and possibly others were involved in the homicide and cover-up. After his arrest for cocaine possession, Lamb decided to cooperate with prosecutors. In exchange for a reduced sentence in the drug case and immunity from prosecution in Brian's murder, he agreed to testify against Casciaro. According to the indictment, Casciaro or someone acting on his instructions struck Brian in the head in an act of unlawful restraint or intimidation, Brian died as a result, and Casciaro covered up the death. Photos of Casciaro and Lamb are posted below this case summary.
At Casciaro's trial in January/February 2012, Lamb stated Brian, Casciaro and himself had been selling marijuana and Brian owed Casciaro $400 to $500. Lamb said Casciaro sent him in to help "be the muscle" to get the money from Brian. Brian was unable to produce the money, and the three of them argued inside the store's cooler. Lamb struck Brian in the head, knocking him unconscious, then Casciaro told him to leave. He said he never saw Brian again and didn't realize he was dead until later. Lamb, who weighed over 100 pounds more than Brian did, admitted he had a long criminal record and a history of violent assaults against others; he estimated he had beaten fifty people in his lifetime. He stated he never intended to cause Brian's death.
The jury was unable to reach a verdict; they deadlocked at 11 to 1 in favor of convicting Casciaro of murder. The prosecution announced they would re-try the case. In June 2012, one of the potential witnesses, Robert Render, died of a drug overdose in a halfway house. A photo of Render is posted below this case summary. He'd been one of Brian's coworkers, and his blood had been found in the walk-in cooler with Brian's. He initially gave a statement implicating Casciaro in the murder, but later retracted it. The prosecution stated they didn't think Render's death would affect the upcoming re-trial. He had an extensive criminal history and his story about Brian's disappearance had changed many times, so the prosecutor didn't think he'd be a credible witness.
Casciaro was re-tried in 2013 and convicted of murder in November of that year. In September 2015, however, a court of appeal overturned his conviction and also ruled that the prosecution could not try Casciaro again. The appeals court said there was insufficient evidence to convict and serious flaws in the prosecution's case, including the fact that Lamb was given full immunity. Casciaro has been released from prison, although the prosecution plans to appeal the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court.
Brian's family has long believed he was murdered, and they have held a memorial ceremony for him. He is the eleventh child of fourteen in his family, eight of whom have worked at Val's Foods. Four of his siblings still lived at home when he disappeared. Brian's mother died in 2009, but the rest of his family is still alive and hopes for resolution in his disappearance. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.
Left: Mario A. Casciaro;
Center: Shane Lamb;
Right: Robert Render