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Convicted Chicago child killer paroled: Ray Larsen among rising number of aged convicts to be released

He’d been doing 100 to 300 years after confessing he killed Frank Casolari, 16, in 1972. In recent years, Illinois has paroled a double ax-murderer, other heinous killers, too.

Ray Larsen, who confessed he killed 16-year-old Frank Casolari in the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport on May 17, 1972,has been paroled. He was serving a sentence of 100 to 300 years in prison.
Ray Larsen, who confessed he killed 16-year-old Frank Casolari in the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport on May 17, 1972,has been paroled. He was serving a sentence of 100 to 300 years in prison.
Illinois Department of Corrections

A 76-year-old man convicted of killing a teenager in a Northwest Side forest preserve in 1972 has been paroled.

Ray Larsen is the latest inmate serving an indefinite prison term — a so-called “C-number” inmate — the Illinois Prisoner Review Board has ordered released, a list that also includes a double ax-murderer.

Larsen had been serving a sentence of 100 to 300 years in prison after confessing he killed 16-year-old Frank Casolari in the Schiller Woods Forest Preserve near O’Hare Airport on May 17, 1972.

He was paroled May 13, according to state corrections records, which also show his last name spelled “Larson.”

At the time of the killing, Larsen was 27 and on furlough from the Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet, where he was doing time for robbery. He was in a program that allowed inmates with good prison records to visit their families and was supposed to be spending a three-day weekend with his grandmother.

Casolari was fishing in the forest preserve when he was shot to death and his body buried.

News of Ray Larsen’s arrest was front-page news in 1972.
News of Ray Larsen’s arrest was front-page news in 1972. At the end of this story, you can click on a link to read the May 20, 1972, Chicago Daily News report.
Chicago Daily News

In prison, Larsen was classified with a C-number — the prison identification that was given in Illinois to convicts sentenced before 1978, when the state did away with indeterminate sentences that gave a range for a prison term rather than a set number of years.

Today, those who are convicted of first-degree murder in Illinois are required to serve their full sentences without the possibility of parole.

But killers, like Larsen, who were convicted before the law was changed in 1978 can get repeated shots at parole. Under the law as it stood when they were sentenced, they are entitled to a parole hearing at least every five years.

In recent years, the Illinois Prisoner Review Board — which approved Larsen’s parole on a 9-3 vote — increasingly has granted parole to C-number inmates.

One of the most infamous of the recent C-number parolees is Chester Weger, accused of the 1960 killings of three women at Starved Rock State Park southwest of Chicago. He was convicted of killing one of the women after he confessed.

Early last year, Weger was released from prison at 80. He’d been the longest-serving inmate in Illinois. Weger has said he was innocent and was coerced into confessing.

Larsen was serving his sentence at the Pontiac Correctional Center.

His registered address now is on the Far South Side.

READ DAILY NEWS 1972 STORY OF LARSEN’S ARREST