Authorities think the victim was killed in Canfield in April 1981, though his body was never recovered.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The indictment of a suspect in a 21-year-old murder case should be one in a string of old killings to be solved in the near future, Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains said.
Samuel Fossesca, indicted Thursday, is charged with aggravated murder and murder in the April 1981 killing of 32-year-old Joseph DeRose Jr. Gains said it was an organized-crime killing and that DeRose's body was never found.
Aggravated murder requires authorities to prove the killing was planned, while murder requires only proof that it was purposeful, Gains said.
According to Vindicator files, DeRose Jr. had been a rival of Joseph "Little Joey" Naples. Previously, DeRose had been identified in affidavits filed by federal agents in other cases as the man suspected of having killed Charles Grisham on Dec. 3, 1978, and James Cononico on Jan. 11, 1979.
Grisham and Cononico, the affidavits say, were allies of Naples in a battle for control of organized crime in the Mahoning Valley.
Shootout: The government alleged that Naples was intent on having DeRose dead. On May 14, 1980, two gunmen opened fire on DeRose and his girlfriend Cheryl Durkin. In the exchange of gunfire, DeRose, Durkin and one of the hit men, Sam Scaffidi, were wounded.
DeRose's father, Joseph Sr., was killed Feb. 25, 1981, by a shot fired from a car outside his home. At the time, police and FBI agents said the murderers of the elder DeRose may have mistaken him for his son.
But in April 1981, DeRose Jr. disappeared. A girlfriend's burned-out car was found along a rural road in Summit County.
Gains said authorities believe he was killed in Canfield, though Gains would not elaborate on a motive or why the body was never found.
The investigation was conducted by the Ohio attorney general's organized-crime investigation unit. A staff attorney there is assigned to the case and will assist in Fossesca's prosecution, Gains said.
How break came: Gains expects more arrests in the DeRose case as well other mob-related deaths from the past. He said authorities got a break in the case while investigating a large theft ring that operated in Mahoning County in the late 1990s.
Some people indicted or implicated in that operation fingered Fossesca as DeRose's killer in exchange for being allowed to plead guilty to reduced charges.
"That's how information gets developed," Gains said. "It's quid pro quo, a lesser sentence in exchange for information."
He would not say who named Fossesca, but said there were enough people to make the information credible. That's also how information is being picked up that should lead to arrests in other homicides, Gains said.
In Ohio, there is no statute of limitations on murder, so charges can be filed no matter how old the case is.
Fossesca, who is imprisoned in Kentucky for participating in a theft ring there, has not confessed. Gains said he's invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
About charges: Fossesca will be returned to Ohio soon for arraignment on the murder charges, for which he faces life in prison if convicted. Gains said he would have sought the death penalty in this case, but the death penalty was not in effect at the time of the killing.
Bret Crow of the attorney general's office said the murder of Boardman businessman Lawrence Sisman was also solved with information gleaned during the robbery ring investigation.
"These were both well-known old homicides," Crow said. "There was just not enough information to go on previously."
Sisman was killed by Mark Batcho, the same man who tried to kill Gains in 1996 before Gains took office. Batcho was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing Sisman in March 1996. He's also serving 18 years for the attempt on Gains' life and for shooting Youngstown attorney Gary Van Brocklin in the leg in April 1996.
When Fossesca completes his prison term in Kentucky, he faces eight years in an Ohio prison for unrelated burglary charges, Gains said. Any time Fossesca receives for the DeRose killing, if he is convicted, could be in addition to that.