Jacob LaRosa

Victim: Marie Belcastro, 94

Age at time of murder: 15

Crime location: Niles, Ohio

Crime date: March 31, 2015

Crimes: Aggravated murder, attempted rape, aggravated robbery, home invasion, & aggravated burglary

Weapon: Heavy metal flashlight

Murder method: Beating to death

Convictions: Aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, & attempted rape

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo

Summary

LaRosa invaded 94-year-old Marie’s home, attempted to rape her, and beat her to death with a heavy metal flashlight. The beating Marie endured was so severe that her eyes ruptured and the top of her skull was crushed. LaRosa was a highly disturbed teen, and showed no remorse for the evil crime, even bragging to other inmates about it. He was sentenced to LWOP and his sentence was upheld.

Details

Obituary for Marie R. Belcastro
Marie Belcastro

State v. LaRosa, CASE NO. 2018-T-0097, (Ohio Ct. App. 2020)

{¶3} On the morning of March 31, 2015, 15-year-old LaRosa was released from the Juvenile Justice Center (“JJC”) after serving time in detention for a probation violation. According to his own account, he met with friends and began drinking excessively. Shortly after 5:00 p.m., LaRosa entered the house of the victim, 94-year-old Marie Belcastro, at 509 Cherry Street in Niles, Ohio. Mrs. Belcastro’s house was directly across from LaRosa’s house and was separated by an alleyway. LaRosa was later identified by video surveillance, which was provided by a neighbor, walking from the direction of the victim’s house with a bottle of alcohol and proceeding down the alleyway around the time of the alleged crimes. The neighbor who provided video surveillance to investigators also found an empty whiskey bottle in his yard that he believed was removed from Mrs. Belcastro’s home.

{¶4} Thereafter, LaRosa arrived home in a nearly incoherent state with blood on his shirt, shoes, and glasses. He made claims to multiple family members that he was attacked by other juveniles who forced him to consume alcohol and other substances at gunpoint. LaRosa’s mother called for help. Niles Police Officer Mobley and EMT personnel arrived at the residence to attend to LaRosa’s injuries resulting from the alleged assault.

{¶5} As LaRosa was being loaded into the ambulance, Officer Mobley was alerted to a commotion at 509 Cherry Street, adjacent to LaRosa’s home. One of Mrs. Belcastro’s daughters waved down the paramedics at the LaRosa residence in a panic after discovering that the Belcastro residence had been broken into through the side door. Inside the home, a blood trail was found throughout the house from the living room through the hallway. A large secretary desk was also toppled over and blocking the front  door from the inside. Mrs. Belcastro’s deceased body was discovered by Officer Mobley and her daughter on the floor in the first bedroom of her home, naked from the waist down and twisted awkwardly into a fetal position. She was severely beaten, and her undergarments were found in the living room. Outside the house, police discovered liquor bottles, including one liquor bottle that had blood on it.

{¶6} LaRosa was taken to St. Joseph Hospital, where his blood alcohol level was determined to be nearly three times the legal limit for an adult. He had no discernable injuries to explain the blood on his body. Blood was also found by the attending nurse on LaRosa’s underwear and his penis. LaRosa’s underwear was seized by investigators. LaRosa was interviewed by a detective. His statements were erratic and, at times, incoherent due to his intoxication. LaRosa was not read his Miranda rights prior to this interview.

{¶7} LaRosa was charged in a complaint of delinquency on April 9, 2015, with four counts alleging crimes involving LaRosa breaking into the home of Mrs. Belcastro, beating her to death, and attempting to rape her. The case was filed in the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division, as Case No. 2015-JD-177. Juvenile Division Proceedings

{¶8} On the same day the complaint of delinquency was filed, the state of Ohio filed a motion to transfer the case from the juvenile division to the Trumbull County Court of Common Pleas General Division, seeking to charge LaRosa as an adult. Thereafter, he waived a probable cause hearing, and the matter was set for an amenability hearing to determine whether LaRosa, who was 15 years old at the time of the alleged crimes,  should be transferred to the general division and tried as an adult. The amenability hearing was conducted over the course of four days, beginning on November 16, 2015.

{¶9} At the hearing, the juvenile division heard testimony from, inter alia, the coroner that conducted the autopsy of Mrs. Belcastro, various doctors who had evaluated LaRosa and his medical history, detectives and law enforcement officers who investigated the homicide of Mrs. Belcastro, juveniles who had interactions with LaRosa at JJC before and after the homicide, and members of LaRosa’s family.

{¶10} LaRosa’s psychological and behavioral history were presented in great detail at the amenability hearing. Three experts presented testimony and reports on his history of treatment, which had been mostly unsuccessful. LaRosa had been in treatment—either out-patient or within a structured facility—starting at approximately 8 years of age. He had been prescribed various medications for issues such as bipolar disorder, ADHD, defiance disorders, and mood disorders.

{¶19} Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, the coroner and medical examiner for Trumbull County, performed Mrs. Belcastro’s autopsy. Dr. Germaniuk testified that Mrs. Belcastro was approximately four feet, seven to eight inches tall and weighed approximately 80-85 pounds at the time of her death. He stated that she was beaten so severely, he could not even opine as to how many times she was struck in the head by her assailant. He further testified that her eyes had been ruptured inside of her head due to the beating, and the bones in her face and the top of her skull had been crushed rather than merely broken.

{¶22} The trial court reviewed, among other things, a presentence report from the Department of Adult Probation, the extensive psychological assessments and medical information provided for LaRosa, victim impact statements, LaRosa’s allocution statement, the transcript of the juvenile amenability hearing, and the Miller factors for sentencing juveniles. The presentence report ordered by the court contained an Ohio Risk Assessment System rating of “very high” with regard to LaRosa’s risk of recidivism. The report also stated that LaRosa had not only struggled with expressing true remorse, but had repeatedly bragged about his crimes to other inmates while in JJC, despite having been advised by his counsel to show remorse. 

{¶23} In considering all of the aforementioned, the trial court ordered the following sentence for each charge:

Aggravated Murder (F1)- Life in prison without parole;

Aggravated Burglary (F1)- 11 years;

Aggravated Robbery (F1)- 11 years;

Attempted Rape (F2)- 8 years.

{¶24} The trial court ordered the sentences to be served consecutively, stating—among other things—LaRosa showed a lack of remorse, the harm was so great and unusual that a single prison term does not adequately reflect the seriousness of the conduct, and consecutive terms are necessary to protect the public and punish him. LaRosa was also classified as a Tier III sex offender with the most stringent, lifetime reporting requirements.

More details can be found here.

LaRosa appealed, arguing, among other things, that he was sentenced to LWOP based on findings that were inconsistent with the requirements of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Ohio Const., art. I, §9. Ohio’s Eleventh District Court of Appeals ruled that this claim was without merit.

Judge sentences Jacob Larosa in grisly death of elderly Niles woman

A judge has sentenced Jacob Larosa to life in prison without the possibility of parole for the brutal 2015 killing of his elderly neighbor.

Larosa will also have to register as a Tier 3 sex offender for the rest of his life.

Prosecutors had asked the judge to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole, but Larosa’s attorneys had argued that his young age, along with psychological issues and a troubled childhood should be taken into consideration.

Larosa plead no contest in February to aggravated murder, attempted rape and theft in the death of 94-year-old Marie Belcastro.

 LaRosa was just 15 on March 31, 2015, when he broke into the Niles home of Marie Belcastro, attempted to rape her, and beat her to death with a heavy metal flashlight.

During the hearing, Judge Wyatt McKay said the court considered victim’s statements, as well as testimony from police and the Trumbull County coroner. McKay also said he took into consideration a statement made by Larosa on his own behalf and Larosa’s age at the time of the crime.

However, McKay also cited the brutality of the crime and the high likelihood of Larosa may commit future crimes.

The defendant murdered a frail, 94-year-old woman who was known to be kind to him,” McKay said, adding that Larosa has shown little to no remorse for the crime, even bragging to inmates about the murder.

 The death penalty was not an option because Larosa was just 15 when he committed the crime.

“There’s no question that if he had been over 18 he would have gotten from any jury the death penalty. We couldn’t give him the death penalty, Judge McKay thoughtfully, carefully and professionally examined all of the factors and gave the only sentence that he could make,” said Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker.

According to the defense, they already plan to appeal the judge’s sentence.