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Attorney general tried to delay parole for man convicted of 23-shot killing of Chicago teen in 1972

Newly released minutes also show who on the Illinois Prisoner Review Board voted to free Raymond Larsen after years of denials. Larsen’s parole was revoked after he went on the lam.

Ray Larsen being taken into the Jefferson Park police station in 1972 in the killing of 16-year-old Frank Casolari at the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport.
Ray Larsen being taken into the Jefferson Park police station in 1972 in the killing of 16-year-old Frank Casolari at the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport.
Sun-Times file

The Illinois attorney general’s office unsuccessfully tried to delay the parole of 76-year-old Chicago child killer Raymond Larsen, who ended up back to prison after less than two months for failing to comply with his parole conditions, newly released records show.

The minutes from the Illinois Prisoner Review Board’s April meeting — when it granted Larsen parole — say the attorney general’s office tried to delay that decision for 90 days so he could be evaluated as a possible “sexually violent person.”

Such a finding could have kept him in prison.

Larsen had told prosecutors he was “looking for something to shoot” in 1972 when he fatally shot Frank Casolari, 16, who was fishing in the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport.

But nearly five decades after the killing, Larsen’s attorney Mira de Jong told the board in April that the killing wasn’t premeditated after all. She said Casolari told Larsen to turn down his radio “because it was scaring away the fish,” that the teenager threatened to call the police when he refused, they argued, and then Larsen shot him.

The boy’s naked body was discovered under branches and debris in the woods. He’d been shot 23 times.

Raymond Larsen.
Raymond Larsen.
Illinois Department of Corrections

De Jong told the board Larsen had an abusive father who was a debt collector for the Chicago Outfit, that Larsen learned to hot-wire and steal cars as a child and was sent to juvenile detention at 13. According to the parole board’s minutes, he grew up with “a group of reckless young men who robbed and burglarized to satisfy their own selfish desires.”

De Jong said he changed for the better in prison, converting to Buddhism and that he’d lead a “quiet life” if paroled.

After years of denials, the board voted 9-3 on April 29 to free Larsen on parole.

The minutes don’t explain why the board went from a 12-0 denial in 2018 to the 9-3 vote in April vote to grant Larsen parole. The board’s policy is to not comment on parole decisions.

The board repeatedly delayed releasing the minutes of April meeting, which show chairman Craig Findley and members Max Cerda, Edith Crigler, Lisa Daniels, Oreal James, Virginia Martinez, Aurthur May Perkins, Drella Savage and Eleanor Wilson voted to parole him. Jeff Mears, Donald Shelton and Joseph Ruggerio, a former DuPage County prosecutor, voted no.

Larsen had last been up for parole in 2018, when the board voted 12-0 to keep him in prison. Board member Salvador Diaz said at the time, “There is something about inmate Larsen that makes him a spree offender, and he may be high-risk to reoffend.”

After his release, Larsen moved to a halfway house in West Pullman and was told to keep in contact with his parole agent. But the Illinois Department of Corrections issued a warrant May 15 for his arrest after parole officials lost touch with him. He was found May 19 and sent back to the halfway house.

But he vanished again May 20. On May 28, Chicago police arrested him on the North Side. He’d taken a Greyhound bus to Cincinnati without permission to visit a woman, officials said, but, unable to see her, returned to Chicago.

In late May, while Larsen was a fugitive, one of Casolari’s relatives told the Chicago Sun-Times: “What is our state doing? How do you lose this guy?”

Frank Casolari.
Frank Casolari.
Chicago Daily News

On June 22, a three-member panel of the prisoner review board revoked Larsen’s parole.

The board could reconsider whether he should be paroled next year.

In 1969, Larsen had been given a six-month sentence after a rape charge was reduced to battery.

After he was arrested on May 18, 1972 — a day after killing Casolari — he was charged with murder in the teenager’s death and with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl who was with Larsen in a stolen car when he was caught.

At the board’s April and June meetings, four inmates were paroled, and nine were denied. Those paroled included an armed robber and two other killers, including 79-year-old Zelma King, who shot three people to death in a South Side apartment building in 1967.