LA VEGAS (KLAS) – “We have an innocent elderly woman minding her own business, shopping, and evil has come upon her.”
That’s how homicide detective Ken Hefner of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department describes the August 1994 death of 81-year-old Ada Priolo. 28 years later, murder charges were filed, but no trial has begun.
Detectives have drawers full of homicide cases that have gone cold, but many say Priolo’s death stands out. When 8 News Now first reported the case in February 2019, detectives said they had no suspects in the homicide.
Priolo was abducted from the parking lot of a grocery store near her home. In the days that followed, 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 trunk of the car with his groceries. Detectives say she was left for dead in the triple-digit summer heat.
“The odds of her being discovered within the time it would take her to succumb to the heat are very low,” says Detective Hefner, adding that the time frame would likely be less than an hour.
Priolo’s granddaughter, Tami Stillwell became spokesperson for the devastated Priolo family. She says she is still waiting for some measure of justice.
“There’s not just one reason why she was killed,” Stillwell said in a 1994 interview. “Not just one reason.”
“Nothing But Frustration”
Four months after 8 News Now reported on the cold case, Christopher Mack, 42, has been 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 waited for various prosecutors to be notified. They waited for a new DNA analysis to be carried out. They waited for the production of new and expanded fingerprint graphics. They waited for extension requests from both parties.
“Nothing but frustration,” says Rob Rucus, a well-known Las Vegas musician and Priolo’s grandson. “Again and again.”
He says the delays have been hard on the whole family, especially his mother Marilyn, Priolo’s daughter, who suffered a stress-induced heart attack. Doctors say she may not survive another.
“The heartache it puts on him is brutal,” Rucus said. “It’s like she’s doomed every time one of those calls happens.”
Mack was 17 at the time of the murder. His fingerprints, which detectives say were found in five places 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 lawyer argues that Mack has already served enough time and is expected to be released in 2023.
A delay requested by the defense claimed that Mack did not want to leave state prison for fear that his belongings would be stolen by other inmates. Another delay was caused by a riot of inmates at the facility.
The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed all criminal cases, but Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson said he was confident the trial would begin in September.
“We’re frustrated because it’s taking so long,” says Wolfson. “Murder cases are going to take longer because there’s so much at stake, and rightly so, but in the end we get justice.”