Man sentenced to prison after violating probation for delivering heroin that ended his young girlfriend’s life

After violating the “gift” of probation received last year for delivering the heroin that led to his 21-year-old girlfriend’s death, a McHenry County Illinois man was again scolded by the presiding judge then sentenced to three years in prison.

Though with time served and day-for-day credit authorities say Cody Hillier, 25, will likely spend just days in an Illinois Department of Corrections facility.

Hillier admitted to using drugs in October which violated terms of his two year probation he received in July. After his arrest he was remanded back to McHenry County jail to await his sentencing.

“What is it going to take to get you off drugs and turn your life around,” asked Judge Sharon Prather, the same judge who sentenced him to probation in July and told him he must testify against anyone related to his girlfriend’s death.

Last month Hillier, dressed in orange jail issued clothing, testified against James Linder, 36, of Zion. He said on Jan. 30, 2015 he bought 1 1/2 grams of heroin from Linder. He testified that he ingested the heroin throughout the day with his girlfriend who died hours later in the early morning hours of Jan. 31.

When help arrived Hillier lied and said his girlfriend was having an asthma attack delaying the use of naloxone, a substance used to reverse the deadly affects of opioids. By the time he told first responders she had ingested drugs it was too late for the substance to work. Soon after she was pronounced dead at Advocate Sherman Hospital in Elgin.

Linder was found guilty of drug induced homicide and is set to be sentenced Feb. 24.
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-drug-induced-homicide-all-white-jury-met-20170113-story.html

Since being back in the county jail where Linder also is being held, Hillier has been in protective custody. During the trial Hillier said he had been threatened by Linder and another man not to testify.

Hillier told Prather at this week’s sentencing hearing he relapsed on drugs at a time when he was under a lot of pressure knowing he was going to testify against Linder.

He said now that the trial is over that pressure has been lifted.

Prather asked what his plans are and he said that he has a union job waiting for him in Wisconsin.

In asking for a prison term of seven years Assistant State’s Attorney Randi Freese said Hillier’s “repeated selfish … criminal behavior” has carried “tragic and fatal consequences.”

In referring to the night of his girlfriend’s fatal overdose she said Hillier lied to those who could have saved her life.

“He knew he had the chance to do the right thing and he didn’t do it,” Freese said.

Then, just roughly three months into his probation, what she referred to as “the gift of a lifetime” Hillier violates his probation.

Freese asked for a sentence that would send a message to the community.

“He watched his girlfriend take her last breath from a drug he gave her,” she said adding that she does not know what else it will take for Hillier to turn his life around.

“(Hillier) is going to wind up dead or in IDOC,” she said.

In asking for probation so he could get the treatment he needs for his drug addiction, assistant public defender Rick Behof said Hillier “has a good heart” but he “made bad choices.”

“He has a substance abuse problem,” Behof said. “No matter what this court does to him he’s gonna have to address that.”

As his late girlfriend’s father silently looked on in the courtroom, as he has done for most court events for Hillier and Linder, Hillier told the judge he is “sorry for what happened.”

Prather, like the first time she sentenced him, gave Hillier a stern warning.

“I don’t think you are a bad person … I think you are a heroin addict. If you don’t get off the drugs you are gonna have a miserable life. Your consequences will get worse and worse. You will be in and out of IDOC or wind up dead.”

He had hundreds of Facebook friends, yet not one to call this week

I followed a missing person’s case this week out of Crystal Lake. It ended so tragically. Please visit me over on Bittersweet and read a post I’ve shared. I sit here tonight thinking about Adrian Salazar. If he would have just had one friend he felt he could have called out to, this story could have turned out so much better.

http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/2015/03/1399-saddest-number-ive-seen-in-a-long-time/

Until next time…

Mario Casciaro denied new trial, facing 20 to 60 years in prison

A McHenry County judge on Tuesday denied Mario Casciaro – what would have been his third murder trial, – in the murder of a coworker last seen alive on the evening of Dec. 20, 2002.

She also denied his motion to toss out the jury’s guilty conviction all together and set his sentencing date for Nov. 14. He faces 20 to 60 year in prison.

 

“I’m devastated, it’s not fair,” said his mother, Maria, outside the courtroom after McHenry County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Prather swiftly gave her decision and handed attorneys a 20-page document detailing her decision.

 

 

Casciaro, 30, who has been held in custody since being found guilty of first-degree murder with intimidation in April shook his head from side to side in apparent disbelief at his fate as he was escorted back into custody by McHenry County Sheriff’s officers.

 

Casciaro was found guilty of first degree murder with intimidation in the disappearance and presumed murder of Brian Carrick, 17. Carrick’s blood was found in and around a produce cooler Val’s Grocery Store in Johnsburg where he worked as a stock boy with Casciaro. Casciaro’s family were part owners of the store at the time.

 

During the trial witnesses said Carrick owed Casciaro a $500 debt in drug dealing  money.

 

Shane Lamb, who also worked at the grocery store and sold pot for Casciaro, testified in both murder trials for the prosecution against Casciaro.

 

The first murder trial ended in a hung jury last year.

 

Lamb testified said that Casciaro told him to come to the store to “talk” to Carrick to help collect his money. Lamb, who was given immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony, said while confronting Carrick he became angry and punched him.

 

Lamb said Carrick fell backward to the ground, inside the cooler, unconscious, he then left the store, not knowing what had happened to Carrick’s body.

 

Lamb, nor anyone else at the store that evening, nor his family or friends, has ever seen Carrick again.

 

His body has never been found.

 

Defense attorney Brian Telander argued that Casciaro should not have been found guilty of intimidation because he only told Lamb to “talk” to Carrick.

 

 

In her written ruling, which denied motions to throw out the guilty verdict, as well as, denied a motion for a new trial, Prather wrote “Under the facts of this case the court concludes that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could infer that defenant  and Shane Lamb intended to use whatever force necessary to intimidate Brian Carrick into paying the money he owed ….. .”

 

 

She also wrote that “There was no other reason for the defendant to call Lamb back to Val’s other than to intimidate Carrick and act as the defendant’s muscle.”

 

Telander also argued that several mistakes had been made during the trial, including being cut off during closing arguments.

 

To which Prather cited case law that says “Presiding judge must be and is given great latitude in controlling the duration and limiting the scope of closing summations. He may limit counsel to a reasonable time and may terminate argument when continuation would be repetitive or redundant.”

 

“In 35 years of practice, I’ve never seen closing arguments cut off by a judge in murder case, ever,” Telander said.

 

 

Telander said after sentencing, he along with Kathleen Zellner, a high-profile defense lawyer from Chicago, will take the case to the appellate courts for an appeal.

 

“I’m extremely confident in a successful appeal,” Telander said. “I have never seen a case that has had this many legitimate issues.”

 

Michael Combs, chief of the criminal division, said he was “not surprised” by the judge’s ruling.

 

“I was confident we were gonna prevail,” Combs said. “The law was on our side. I’m sick and tired of his family acting like he was railroaded, that we were making stuff up….It’s a bunch of nonsense.”

 

Brian’s dad William Carrick left the courtroom without comment.

 

 

 

Mario Casciaro seeking a new trial

As Mario Casciaro walked out of lock up and into a McHenry County courtroom wearing county issued orange garb, he blew a kiss to family members who were in court in the hopes of having his murder conviction overturned.

But they all will need to wait until Sept. 24 for Judge Sharon Prather to make her ruling.

Casciaro, 30, appeared in court on a motion to appeal his conviction. He has been in jail since being found guilty in April of first-degree murder with intimidation, in the murder of 17-year-old Brian Carrick.

Carrick worked as a stockboy with Casciaro at Val’s Foods in Johnsburg. The grocery store was partly owned by the Casciaro family at the time.

Carrick was last seen alive with Casciaro and Shane Lamb on the evening of Dec. 20, 2002.

Casciaro has long been accused of calling in Lamb to collect a $500 drug debt from Carrick.

This was Casciaro’s second first-degree murder trial. The first trial ended last year in a hung jury.

During both trials, Lamb, who has received immunity in the case in exchange for his testimony, testified that Casciaro asked him to come to the grocery store and help collect his money. Lamb further testified that he became angry with Carrick and punched him and Carrick fell to the ground inside the cooler unconscious. Blood was coming from his nose. Lamb said he then left and doesn’t know what happened to Carrick after that. Lamb said he never saw Carrick again.

Prosecutors have long said that Casciaro knowingly used Lamb as an “enforcer,” “intimidator” and “thug” to get the money from Carrick.

Brian Telander, Casciaro’s attorney, argued that even Lamb himself testified in both trials that he was never told by Casciaro to hurt or intimidate Carrick.

“At no time did (Casciaro) tell Shane Lamb to threaten (Carrick) to get the money,” Telander said adding that at no time did Casciaro tell Lamb to “intimidate,” or “kick his butt,” or “scare him to get the money.”

“He told Lamb ‘come and talk to (Brian),’” Telander insisted. “Come talk to him about the money.”

Telander said that the jury’s conviction was wrong and not based on evidence that was “believable beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“The jury got it wrong,” he said during the hearing.  “Lamb said he got there, got in an argument … ‘I lost my temper and I hit him.’” At no time did he say he threatened Brian Carrick. … “At no time did (Mario) say anything or do anything or make a threat. Shane Lamb only acted out of anger.”

Investigators have said that Carrick’s blood was found in and around the produce cooler where witnesses testified to last seeing him with Casciaro and Lamb.  His blood also was found on boxes in an outside garbage dumpster behind the store.

His body has never been found.

Assistant State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally strongly disagreed with Telander’s claims.

“If Shane Lamb wasn’t there to intimidate Brian Carrick, then exactly what was he there to do?” Kenneally said. “Why couldn’t (Casciaro) just ask Brian Carrick for the money? Shane Lamb had a reputation for violence. Shane Lamb was known as a person who was violent, he was known as the person to collect the money for Mario Casciaro.”

Kenneally pointed out that Lamb was a big guy in comparison to Carrick’s small frame.

“Shane Lamb is intimidating,” Kenneally said. “Shane Lamb will engage in violence. It’s just that simple. The defendant was well aware of what he was doing when he brought Shane Lamb in.”

Outside the courtroom, Telander said he was “encouraged” that (Prather) is taking this seriously.  I’m thrilled she’s doing this.”

Along side Telander stood Kathleen Zellner, a high-profile attorney known on a national level for representing people whose civil rights have been violated, according to her website.

Telander said should his motion to overturn the conviction not be successful in Prather’s courtroom, Zellner will take the case on to the appellate court.

Zellner said  Casciaro was wrongfully convicted of intimidation in a case where there was “no threat at all and no weapons.”

“No court in the U.S. would support this conviction,” Zellner said adding that she is “confident” his conviction will be reversed.

In an earlier emailed statement, Mario’s sister, Joanne Casciaro, wrote that prosecutors used her brother as a “scapegoat, so they can say they solved the case.”

The family declined to comment further after the hearing.

But before parting ways after the hearing Jerry Casciaro, Mario’s father, approached William Carrick, Brian’s father. Both, broken hearted men who love their sons. The father of the accused and the father of the victim shook hands.

A sign of healing, forgiveness in a tragedy that has overshadowed one small town and hurt many lives over the last decade?  Maybe.

Please, comment, share, sign up to follow me!  Until next time ….

Emily and Abby – working and achieving gracefully

Hi friends please visit Bittersweet on ChicagoNow. We, as a family, have been so all-consumed these past few months with Emily’s show and Abby’s dance competitions (as I know most families are busy with their own children right now).

This morning, with a few calm hours until I start running them here and there, I wanted to pause and  share a tale of their hard work and well-deserved achievements. I know, we as parents sometimes complain that things are so busy, but I have to remind myself that this timeframe right here, right now with my daughters is so fleeting. Soon they will be gone and I won’t know, or have much of a role in their lives.

I just want them both to know how much I really do appreciate them and recognize all of their hard work.

Please click on, or paste the link below in your browser. I’d love for you to share your stories with me of your own busy families and your kids’ hard work and well-deserved achievements.

http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/2013/02/emily-and-abby-hard-work-paying-off-beautifully/

Until next time….

A story of hope worth sharing

I normally don’t post links to actual stories I’ve written in the Chicago Tribune, but this is an exception I think worthy to do so. This story (link below) is about a group of young guys who by many folks’ standards might be considered common delinquents, people many would write off as never going to do well or be productive members of society.

In my work I typically read and write stories about young people -even older people- who are alcoholics and drug addicts either dying from their addictions, stealing to support their addictions or killing another person in the process of their addictions.

But this story is quite the opposite of all we have come to know about young people abusing drugs and alcohol. And I am so proud and happy that I stumbeld  up on this story and was blessed with the opportunity to tell their story.

These guys also will be on Bill Moller’s WGN radio show Saturday Jan. 26 to share their story of recovery and outreach to  help others. Please click on the link below and share the story with others. And I hope you see, as I have, that even in the darkest places there is always a glimmer of hope, and people can change if they truly want to.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/suburbs/crystal_lake/ct-met-sober-nightclub-20130120,0,2130477.story

Until next time love each other!

I’ve added a new adventure! Won’t you all join me?

 

Well it’s a new year (in a few hours) and I have a new adventure!

I am now writing for ChicagoNow under the name of Bittersweet. On this new site I will share thoughts and spin words as I see fit in the moment. I do hope you all will follow me over there and keep this adventure we call life moving along together! I will not be canceling this site as it keeps my work all linked up and tidy!

For my first blog in the new location I shared thoughts on the old year and the new year. (I know not very original on this day when writers everywhere are covering this topic, but we all have had different experiences and will likely have different angles to discuss and share.)

Happy New Year to everyone. Stay safe and well.

Love each other!

Visit me at this link below and let’s keep our friendship going!

http://www.chicagonow.com/bittersweet/