I-Team Exclusive: Police crack 25-year-old cold case murder

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A 25-year murder mystery has been solved by Metro’s cold case homicide detectives. It involved the murder of an 81-year-old woman.

Ada Priolo was killed in 1994.

The I-Team profiled the story a few months ago, and since the story aired, investigators and prosecutors have been able to narrow the list of suspects down to one name. He’s someone already serving a prison sentence. 

In February, The I-Team revisited the cold case murder of 81-year-old Ada Priolo. She was stuffed into the trunk of her car and left to die in the blazing heat of a Las Vegas summer. 

Ada Priolo’s car was found in a church parking lot.

Uncertainty about the killer’s identity has tormented Priolo’s family for nearly a quarter century. They were relieved to finally get the phone call from Metro homicide.

Ada Priolo’s family.

“There’s not one reason why she was killed. There’s not one reason. You guys on TV ask what was the motive? There’s no motive whey she was killed,” said Tami Stillwell in a 1994 interview.

As a 17-year-old, Tami Stillwell became the spokesperson for a family devastated by the Aug. 1994 disappearance of her grandmother, Ada Priolo. Mrs. Priolo had left her apartment on Brush Street to do some shopping. Detectives believe she was abducted when she exited a grocery store at Decatur Boulevard and Meadows Lane.

Church parking lot where Priolo’s car and her body were found.

Her car was found days later in the parking lot of a church a few miles away. Ada’s body was in the trunk. She’d succumbed to the stifling triple digit heat. Ada’s granddaughter has waited nearly 25 years for the call she just took from a Metro detective.

“I had to sit down. I couldn’t breathe because, you know, it’s been 25 years of wanting this, looking for this, hoping for this, and there it was,” Stillwell said.

Ada’s daughter was the second to hear the news.

“I can’t repeat it. She said they got the SOB,” Ada’s daughter, Marilyn Marquez said.

The district attorney has charged 41-year-old Christopher Mack aka Christopher Smith, with the Priolo murder. Mack has an extensive and violent criminal history and is serving time in a Nevada prison. Cold case homicide detective Ken Hefner told the I-Team months ago the killer was likely a youngster.  

“It just seemed kind of reckless and foolish, and how much money are you going to get from an old lady?” Hefner said.

Mack was 17 when Priolo was abducted and left to die. Mack’s fingerprints were found in five locations on Priolo’s car, including the trunk, but because he was a juvenile in 1994, his prints weren’t in the system. They were added years later when he was busted for other crimes. Hefner took a fresh look at the case file, at the physical evidence, but also spotted a clue about why the car may have been left at that church.

“When I’m looking at it, and figuring out where he lived, where the car was abandoned, it’s less than half a mile, so to me, this is the last place you can park a car, not on a street, and be as close to his house as possible, so that he can have a short walk home in mid-August because it’s hot,” Hefner said.

Family members are still haunted by mental images of Ada’s final hours and are not sure how they will feel if or when the suspect goes to trial.

“I was asking the same thing. I don’t think we’ll know until it actually happens. It’s hard to say right now. The best for me is that, you  know, especially with this conviction on top of everything else, he will never ever hurt another innocent again,” said Jimmy Marquez, Priolo’s grandson

Tami Stillwell, Ada Priolo and Marilyn Marquez.

“My mom and sister, they don’t need that, you know, the damage it did to them is what gets me the most, you know,” said Rock Ruckus, Priolo’s grandson. “That’s what hurts me.”

Cold case detectives went to Southern Desert Correctional to speak to inmate and suspect Christopher Mack but as soon as they mentioned Priolo, he ended the conversation. Family members say they plan to be at every court hearing until the matter is resolved.

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