Defense attorneys ask judge to consider intoxication of Niles teen murderer


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

Defense attorneys for Jacob LaRosa, who is waiting to learn what his punishment will be for killing, robbing and attempting to rape his elderly neighbor, asked Judge W. Wyatt McKay to keep in mind how intoxicated LaRosa, then 15, was at the time of the crimes.

Attorneys Matt Pentz and David Rouzzo concede that LaRosa’s crimes were “heinous,” but “we must remember that he was extremely intoxicated, as was indicated from the hospital tests, as well as the testimony of his sister that ... [LaRosa’s] eyes were rolling in the back of his head; he really couldn’t speak and he threw up,”

LaRosa, 18, was convicted earlier of killing Marie Belcastro, 94, in her Cherry Street home in Niles on March 31, 2015.

Judge McKay had a hearing in May to hear testimony regarding LaRosa’s background and the type of punishment LaRosa should get.

LaRosa was convicted of aggravated murder, attempted rape, aggravated robbery and aggravated burglary and could get life in prison without the possibility of parole or a sentence that could allow for possible parole.

The defense and prosecution were allowed to file briefs to argue what punishment they felt was appropriate.

In a Friday filing, Pentz and Rouzzo of the Ohio Public Defender’s Office suggested that LaRosa was not in Belcastro’s house very long, which they believe shows that all four of LaRosa’s crimes were part of the same pattern of conduct. If they were, the judge could justify giving LaRosa a lesser sentence.

“This was one continuous event at one specific location,” the filing says. “The entire event for this 15-year-old juvenile was almost certainly a blur and not the result of a separate” pattern of conduct.

Prosecutors have argued that there were “three separate and distinct crime scenes in the Belcastro residence, the living room, the dining room and the bedroom,” and LaRosa had three different motives in each room — subduing his victim, stealing from her purse and committing a sex offense.

It’s unkown when the judge will hand down LaRosa’s sentence.

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