Tue. 1:16 p.m.: LaRosa’s plea in murder averts trial; sentencing set for April

Jacob LaRosa of Niles takes notes Monday during jury selection in his murder and attempted rape trial before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay. LaRosa, 18, is accused of beating to death Marie Belcastro of Niles in her home March 31, 2015. Attorneys are expected to finish quizzing potential jurors today.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

Jacob LaRosa of Niles takes notes Monday during jury selection in his murder and attempted rape trial before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay. LaRosa, 18, is accused of beating to death Marie Belcastro of Niles in her home March 31, 2015. Attorneys are expected to finish quizzing potential jurors today. Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple

WARREN — The 18-year-old accused in the March 31, 2015, beating death and attempted rape of a 94-year-old Niles woman pleaded no contest this morning to four felony charges. He will be sentenced in April.

Jacob LaRosa stood with his lawyers before Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay and accepted the plea and sent the jury pool home before lunch today. Opening arguments were expected to begin this afternoon.

McKay found LaRosa guilty of charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and attempted rape, and ordered his adult probation department to conduct a background report of the defendant, which will help determine sentencing.

McKay scheduled a sentencing hearing April 5 and 6 so lawyers can argue facts of the case before McKay, who will decide whether LaRosa will be given the maximum sentence of life without parole. The defendant also could be sentenced to life sentences with chances for parole after 20, 25 or 30 years.

The judge ordered that LaRosa be transferred from the Juvenile Justice Center, where he was housed for almost three years, to a cell in the Trumbull County Jail. McKay also revoked the $3 million bond in the case.

Read full details in the Wednesday Tribune Chronicle.