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Mother not feeling much closure

| July 20, 2005 12:00 AM

By BRENT SHRUM Western News Reporter

Nearly 10 years after Brian Carreiro's death at the hands of two companions on a trip from Las Vegas to northwest Montana, his remains have been released from evidence and laid to rest in a family plot in California.

Carreiro disappeared in August 1995 after traveling to the Trego area with two men he had gotten to know in Nevada. His charred remains were found the following spring, and the two men who had accompanied Carreiro on the trip — John Lynch and Larry Pizzichiello — were charged with his murder.

Both men were convicted in 1997 of killing Carreiro, taking his truck and stealing about $5,000 from his bank account. They were sentenced to life in prison, but their convictions were overturned by the Montana Supreme Court on the grounds that wiretap evidence obtained by Nevada authorities during the initial investigation of the case should not have been admitted as evidence because Montana law forbids its use.

The case against Lynch and Pizzichiello was transferred to federal court — where wiretap evidence is admissible — under a constitutional clause giving the federal government jurisdiction in cases involving interstate commerce. In 2000, Pizzichiello pleaded guilty to robbery and agreed to testify against Lynch. He received a sentence of 151 months in prison plus three years of supervised release. Lynch, who was accused of actually pulling the trigger on the gun that killed Carreiro, was convicted of robbery and the use of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime but found not guilty of murder. He was sentenced to 20 years for the robbery and another five years, to be served consecutively, for the firearm charge.

Both Lynch and Pizzichiello have appealed various aspects of their cases but remain in federal prison. Carreiro's mother, Phyllis Swallow, said authorities were keeping her son's remains as evidence but finally decided that they could be released.

"With all the things that have gone on, it's pretty hard for them to say those aren't Brian's remains," she said.

Unlike Lynch — who continues to fight his conviction and sentence — Pizzichiello has been relatively quiet after losing an initial appeal, Swallow said. Pizzichiello becomes eligible for parole in 2007, and Swallow said she will do "whatever I have to do" to keep him behind bars despite a gut feeling that he will be turned loose.

"It's not fair, but unfortunately that's not in the name of the game," she said.

As for Lynch, "He's going to be there a long time and I hope it's a miserable stay," Swallow said.

Swallow has been involved in the legal proceedings stemming from her son's death for nearly a decade, and she doesn't see it ending anytime soon.

"Until you get involved in the judicial system, people don't realize just how favored it is to the criminal," she said.

Swallow traveled to Montana in early July to pick up her son's remains and take them home to California. It was a trip she had made many times before, and as usual, a small act of kindness stood out, she said. Boarding a propeller-driven commuter plane, she found that the infant-sized coffin that held the remains wouldn't fit under the seat or in the overhead storage bin, and she couldn't bear the thought of having the coffin checked as baggage. The flight attendants on the plane made room in their own luggage area for the coffin, Swallow said.

Carreiro's remains were buried next to his stepfather on Thursday, July 7. After the physically and emotionally grueling trip, Swallow said she didn't have much of a feeling of closure at the time of the services but hoped that feeling would come the following day. But when Friday rolled around, she found that little had changed.

"I was thinking things would really be better," she said. "But they weren't."