The testimony and autopsy photos of Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, gave the judge in the Jacob LaRosa aggravated murder case ample evidence of the brutality of Marie Belcastro's death.
Dr. Germaniuk, testified that Belcastro's death was the result of head trauma. The photos the coroner took at the murder scene and the ones from the autopsy would have been difficult for most people to see, but the video screen was pointed away from the gallery in the courtroom of Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court.
Judge McKay is hearing testimony today and tomorrow to help him decide on the punishment for LaRosa, 18, who pleaded no contest earlier to killing Belcastro, 94, March 3, 2015, at her home in Niles.
LaRosa, who was 15 when he killed the woman, looked away from the screen most of the time during the testimony.
He likewise looked away from the screen when police photos of the crime scene were shown this morning during the testimony of Niles Police Detective Craig Aurilio.
"Basically her face is crushed," Dr. Germaniuk said as photos were projected during his testimony today. She had multiple skull fractures and other injuries. A Mag flashlight left behind is believed to have been the murder weapon.
After a break in testimony, a psychologist hired by LaRosa's defense team is expected to testify.
Aurilio testified that Belcastro's murder was "absolutely brutal" and "one of the worst I've ever seen."
Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, Trumbull County coroner, will testify after lunch regarding the March 31, 2015, death of Marie Belcastro, 94, in her Niles home.
Four witnesses testified this morning in Trumbull County Common Pleas Court in the mitigation hearing for Jacob LaRosa, 18, who pleaded no contest earlier to killing Belcastro, robbing her and attempting to rape her.
The last two witnesses this morning were young men who testified that LaRosa told them while they were locked up together in the Trumbull County Juvenile Justice Center that he killed Belcastro.
One of the two said he went there because he had been drinking with friends and they ran out of of booze, so he went to her house looking for more.
The lead detective in the Jacob LaRosa investigation testified today that the scene at Marie Belcastro's home the day police found her dead there was "absolutely brutal" and "one of the worst I've ever seen."
Niles police detective Craig Aurilio helped explain dozens of photos shown to Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court this morning at the start of a two-day mitigation hearing.
The hearing's purpose is to help Judge McKay decide the punishment to give to LaRosa, 18, who pleaded no contest earlier to killing Belcastro, 94, his neighbor, in her Cherry Street home March 31, 2015. He is also convicted of attempting to rape her.
LaRosa could get life in prison without eligibility for parole or another life prison sentence. Judge McKay announced at the start of the hearing that he will not rule on the punishment until after a May 11 deadline for attorneys to file briefs on two legal issues.
The photos showed four distinct areas of Belcastro's home, including the living room, where a Mag flashlight was found and other indications of an assault. Police believe LaRosa used the flashlight in the assault and that it began there.
A daughter of Belcastro, Deborah O'Leary, was the first witness, testifying to taking her mother to the bank and back home the morning of the killing, then returning around 5:25 p.m. and discovering evidence of a break-in and contacting police.
Several witnesses are expected to testify today to start a two-day hearing to help Judge W. Wyatt McKay of Trumbull County Common Pleas Court sentence Jacob LaRosa, 18, for killing his elderly neighbor three years ago.
LaRosa, of Lafayette Avenue in Niles, pleaded no contest Feb. 13 to aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and attempted rape in the March 31, 2015, killing of Marie Belcastro 94, in her home on Cherry Street in Niles.
Relatives of Belcastro are expected to testify, as well as Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk.
LaRosa used a Mag flashlight to beat Belcastro to death, prosecutors have said. Judge McKay could give LaRosa life in prison without eligibility for parole or one of the other life prison sentences.
LaRosa is in court in a jail jumpsuit. His attorneys with the Ohio Public Defender's Office and two assistant prosecutors are in chambers with Judge McKay. The hearing is expected to begin shortly.