by Amy E. Nevala
Chicago Tribune – March 28, 2002
One day after a jury found him not guilty in the slaying of his lifelong friend, John Carroccia said he, is “coming down to Earth and is just happy to get home.”
Carroccia, 51, was arrested in June 2000 after Hampshire Police Sgt. Gregory Sears was found shot to death next to his idling squad car in an industrial park.
After a short deliberation Tuesday, jurors said the evidence linking Carroccia to the slaying was not enough to overcome reasonable doubt about his involvement.
Speaking at a news conference Wednesday at his lawyer’s downtown Chicago office, Carroccia said his plans include “getting up, taking care of business, going home and having dinner with the family,”
At the time of his arrest, Carroccia was an unemployed carpenter from Rockford and the primary caregiver for his elderly parents.
“I’m going to start a new life, get back home to Mom and Dad, make sure their health is taken care of,” he said.
After his arrest, Carroccia was freed after posting $400,000 bail. The judge ordered the bail returned after Carroccia’s acquittal, said Stephen Komie, one of his attorneys.
Prosecutors based their case on a witness who saw a red van like Carroccia’s leaving the crime scene. Other witnesses contradicted Carroccia’s three accounts of where he was the night of the slaying.
As they did during Carroccia’s 12 -day trial, his lawyers Wednesday outlined motives that Sears’ Widow, Norma Jean, might have had for killing her husband of less than a month.
When Carroccia was asked about his feelings about Norma Jean Sears, he said he “couldn’t go in that direction, that wouldn’t be fair.”
“After all, she was Greg’s wife,” he said; adding that he plans to visit Sears’ gravesite for the first time.