LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — “We have an innocent older woman just minding her business, getting her groceries, and has evil come her way.”
That’s how homicide detective Ken Hefner with the Las Vegas Metro Police Department describes the Aug 1994 death of 81-year-old Ada Priolo. 28 years later murder charges have been filed, but no trial has begun.
Detectives have file drawers packed with homicide cases that have gone cold, but many say Priolo’s death stands out. When 8 News Now first profiled the case in Feb 2019, detectives said they didn’t have a suspect in the homicide.
Priolo was abducted from the parking lot of a grocery store near her home. In the following days, Priolo’s daughter Marilyn and her family waited for news. Four days later, Priolo’s car was found abandoned in a church parking lot. Priolo’s body was found in the car’s trunk with her groceries. Detectives say she was left to die in the triple-digit summer heat.
“The chances of her being discovered in the time frame it would take for her to succumb to the heat is very short,” explains Detective Hefner adding that the time frame would likely be less than an hour.
Priolo’s granddaughter, Tami Stillwell has become a spokesperson for Priolo’s devastated family. She says she’s still waiting for some measure of justice.
‘There’s not one reason why she was killed,” Stillwell said in a 1994 interview. “Not one reason.”
“Nothing but frustration”
Four months after the 8 News Now report on the cold case, Christopher Mack, 42, was charged with murder in Priolo’s death.
In the three years since the district attorney agreed to prosecute Mack for murder, the case has bounced between three different judges. The family has waited for different prosecutors to be brought up to speed. They waited while a new DNA analysis was performed. They’ve waited for the production of new and expanded fingerprint graphics. They’ve waited through requests for continuances filed by both sides.
“Nothing but frustration,” explains Rob Ruckus, well-known Las Vegas musician and grandson of Priolo. “Over and over again.”
He says the delays have been hard on the entire family, especially his mother Marilyn, Priolo’s daughter, who has suffered a stress-induced heart attack. Doctors say she may not survive another.
“The heartache that it is putting her through, it’s brutal,” says Ruckus. “It’s like she’s being sentenced every time one of these appeals happen.”
Mack was 17 years old at the time of the murder. His fingerprints, which detectives say were found in five locations on Priolo’s car, weren’t listed in evidence systems until years later.
By the time he was charged with Priolo’s murder, Mack was already in prison, having been convicted of other crimes. His attorney argues that Mack has already served enough time, and should be released in 2023.
One delay sought by the defense claimed that Mack didn’t want to leave state prison for fear that his belongings might be stolen by other inmates. Another delay was brought upon by an inmate riot at the facility.
The COVID-19 pandemic delayed all criminal cases, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson says he’s confident the trial will begin in September.
“We’re frustrated because it takes so long,” explains Wolfson. “Murder cases are going to take longer because there’s so much at stake, and rightfully so, but at the end of the day we get justice.”