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Parole board rejects release of two rapists

YOUNGSTOWN — The Ohio Parole Board has rejected the first request by two men who committed brutal rapes as juveniles to be released on parole.

Brandon Moore, 36, and Chaz Bunch, 37, were eligible for parole in February, thanks to a 2021 change in Ohio law that granted each man a parole hearing after 18 years served — regardless of their original sentence.

Moore and Bunch were sentenced to 50 and 49 years, respectively, for the kidnapping, robbery and repeated rape of a 22-year-old female Youngstown State University student Aug. 21, 2001. The attack started just as she arrived to work the midnight shift at a group home for mentally handicapped women on Detroit Avenue.

They kidnapped the victim at gunpoint and drove her to a dead-end street near Pyatt Street in Youngstown. There, Moore and Bunch raped her repeatedly at gunpoint.

The parole board recently rejected parole for each man.

Moore’s next parole hearing will be in December 2026. Bunch’s next parole hearing will be in September 2026. Moore could remain in prison until August 2051, and Bunch could remain locked up until August 2050.

ELIGIBILITY CHANGE

Under the 2021 Ohio law, defendants convicted of offenses as a juvenile are now eligible for parole after 18, 25 or 30 years in prison. In the case of Moore and Bunch, it meant they were eligible after 18 years served. Bunch and Moore began their sentences in October 2002, meaning they were eligible for their first parole hearings this year.

“The Mahoning Count Prosecutor’s Office is grateful for the Ohio Parole Board’s decision to deny parole for both Brandon Moore and Chaz Bunch,” said Gina DeGenova, first assistant to Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul Gains, when asked about the parole decisions.

“Moore and Bunch were sentenced to 50 and 49 years, respectively, for the violent and callous kidnapping, robbery, and repeated rape of a 22-year-old YSU student on Aug. 21, 2001,” she stated in an email.

“Moore and Bunch were only eligible for parole after Senate Bill 256 was enacted in January 2021 that granted parole eligibility to juvenile offenders, regardless of their original sentences. Despite the change in the law, the state is not required to guarantee eventual freedom to these offenders, and our office will continue to object to their parole until they have both served their entire sentences,” she stated.

“The brutality and callousness of the kidnapping, robbery, and repeated rape of the 22-year-old YSU student demonstrate that releasing either Moore or Bunch would be inconsistent with protecting our community’s welfare and security.”

Ralph Rivera, assistant Mahoning County prosecutor, has said that after the first parole hearing for Moore and Bunch, the parole board must hold additional hearings within five years.

SENTENCING RULING

A 2016 Ohio Supreme Court ruling struck down the 112-year prison sentence Moore received in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. His case was cited by some Ohio legislators as a reason Ohio legislators changed Ohio law in 2021 to allow individuals who committed crimes as juveniles a chance to be paroled and not spend his or her entire life in prison.

Prior to the parole hearings for Moore and Bunch, the Mahoning County Prosecutor’s Office wrote a letter opposing parole, stating that “the violent nature of their offenses, their significant criminal history as juveniles, and their negative behavior while incarcerated in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction establish that neither one is suitable for parole.”

Before this offense, Moore had a significant juvenile record, in which he spent time at the Ohio Department of Youth Services, because he did not respond favorably to the terms and conditions of his probation, the prosecutor’s office letter stated.

Bunch also had a significant juvenile record, which included aggravated menacing, receiving stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, resisting arrest and possession of drugs.

“In both cases of aggravated menacing, defendant Bunch threatened to kill several individuals, including two Boardman police officers in one of those instances. Bunch was also charged with shooting another individual, but the individual later refused to cooperate in Bunch’s juvenile adjudication of that offense,” the prosecutor’s office stated.

As an example of how the 2021 law affects other juvenile convicts, Jacob Larosa of Niles, now 22, who was convicted of killing one person, is eligible under Ohio’s 2021 law for a parole hearing after serving 25 years in prison, Rivera said. Larosa was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in October 2018 for killing his neighbor, Marie Belcastro, 94, in her home in 2015 when Larosa was 15.

“If the juvenile offender committed one homicide offense — murder or aggravated murder, manslaughter or reckless homicide — they would be eligible automatically after serving 25 years,” Rivera said.

A person who is the primary offender and kills two people as a juvenile would be eligible for a parole hearing after 30 years, Rivera said.

erunyan@vindy.com

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