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Las Vegas Man Sentenced For 1994 Cold Case Murder Of Elderly Woman Suffocated In Car Trunk

Investigators say a 17-year-old Christopher Mack forced 81-year-old Ada Priolo into her car trunk during an August 1994 robbery in Las Vegas, and she suffocated to death. 

By Jax Miller
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A Las Vegas man has entered a guilty plea for the gruesome 1994 murder of an elderly woman found in the trunk of her car.

Christopher Mack, 45, has agreed to serve six years for the violent murder of Ada Priolo, 81, whose body was found in a car trunk nearly 30 years ago, according to CBS Las Vegas affiliate KLAS. The sentence is part of an Alford plea Mack submitted on Tuesday — a guilty plea where a defendant still maintains his innocence but acknowledges the state had enough evidence to merit a conviction.

KLAS reported the sentence would run concurrently with a separate sentence Mack is currently serving for unrelated crimes. However, Priolo’s family, who was in court for the hearing, stated the sentence would actually be running consecutively.

One of Priolo’s grandchildren is local punk rock musician Rob Ruckus, who starred in A&E’s “Bad Ink” in 2013.

A photo of Ada Priolo from her grandson

He told Oxygen.com that news of Mack’s sentence being concurrent “was not true” and that “the time for my grandmother will not start ’til after his current sentence.”

“I’m not really happy with the amount of time he got for it,” Ruckus said. “But what I am happy about is my mom doesn’t have to sit through a trial and see the pictures and hear the details and relive this horror again.”

Ada Priolo left her Brush Street residence in the Arthur Santini Complex to go to a grocery store at the corner of Decatur Boulevard and Meadows Lane on Aug. 22, 1994. Her daughter and granddaughter reported her missing when they couldn’t get ahold of Priolo after two days.

“I got panicky because we hadn’t heard from her or anything,” Priolo’s daughter, Marilyn Marquez, told KLAS in 2019, months before Mack’s arrest.

Two days after they reported her missing, Priolo’s Monte Carlo was found in the parking lot of a nearby church on West Oakey Boulevard. Inside the trunk was the missing woman’s body — and the groceries she'd purchased before her abduction. Her purse was not inside.

Investigators said she was alive when forced into the trunk and only later succumbed to the blistering heat of summer temperatures in Las Vegas, which reached triple digits around the time she disappeared.

The average high for that month was 107 degrees.

A photo of Ada Priolo with her family

Las Vegas Metro Cold Case Detective Ken Hefner told KLAS in 2019 that authorities believed someone abducted Priolo from the grocery shopping parking lot. He added that Priolo would have likely died within an hour after being forced into the trunk.

“We have an innocent older woman just minding her own business, getting her groceries, and has evil come her way,” said Hefner. “It’s just terrible. We believe she was robbed for her pocketbook, cash. How hard is it to get that from an 81-year-old woman?”

LVMPD officers conducted several interviews with more than one suspect, according to KLAS, including young men who lived within walking distance and had criminal histories. None panned out.

Detectives also lifted fingerprints from five places on the Monte Carlo — including the trunk — during the initial investigation, but they never matched anyone in the system. In 2019, authorities vowed to take a fresh look at the prints and use advanced screening techniques unavailable in the early 1990s.

Four months after Det. Hefner spoke with KLAS reporters and appealed to the public for information, they matched the fingerprints to Christopher Mack, who was 17 years-old at the time of Priolo’s murder.

A police handout of Christopher Mack

Because of Mack’s age, his prints would not have been entered into law enforcement databases at the time, according to KLAS, and it remains unclear if his criminal history went back that far. But Mack’s prints were added to databases when he arrested on unrelated charges — including robbery — in the years after the murder.

He was incarcerated for other crimes when he was charged with Priolo's murder.

Priolo’s loved ones, including her grandchildren, expressed frustration when Mack’s murder trial was repeatedly delayed in the several years following his arrest, according to KLAS. On top of delays brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the case also went through three different judges and several requests for continuances.

“It saddens me that the justice system in Nevada is so flawed; that they put my family in more misery and fear than the actual murderer [had] the past 28 years,” Ruckus told Oxygen.com. “Especially the past four years, since this has been reopened. Every single delay was like another sentence for my family.”

Mack’s lawyers sought to have the defendant released by 2023, citing he’d already served time for other crimes, according to KLAS. Mack’s lawyers also fought to keep him from being moved from state prison before the trial, claiming his belongings might be stolen by other inmates.

Before his plea, Mack had scheduled to go to trial in September.

We all feel a little lighter today," said Ruckus of the sentencing. "It will take some time to heal, but the important part is that we can now start."

He added he had few memories of Priolo that "weren't filled with smiles and laughter."

"She was an absolute angel. Always helped with the family. She was a big part of my upbringing," Ruckus told Oxygen.com. "She went to church regularly. Nothing but a positive ray of light to everyone lucky enough to cross her path. And a wonderful sense of humor."

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