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LaRosa sentencing hearing

Teen told psychologist he deserves life in prison

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Trumbull Co. assistant prosecutor Gabe Wildman, left, displays autopsy photos of murder victim Marie Belcastro as Trumbull Co. Coroner Humphrey Germaniuk testifies before Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay Thursday afternoon during the mitigation phase of the Jacob LaRosa trial...LaRosa, right, in orange prison jumpsuit, looks away during the presentation of the photos while sitting next to his attorney David Rouzzo, center...by R. Michael Semple

WARREN — Jacob LaRosa didn’t look at crime scene and autopsy images Thursday of his murder victim Marie Belcastro as Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk described the brutal injuries the teen caused when he murdered her.

LaRosa, 18, pleaded no contest and was found guilty in February on charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, aggravated burglary and attempted rape for the murder of Belcastro, 94, in 2015. His sentencing hearing began Thursday and will continue today before Trumbull County Common Pleas Court Judge W. Wyatt McKay. LaRosa could be given the maximum sentence of life without parole or could be sentenced to life in prison with chances for parole after 20, 25 or 30 years.

Germaniuk described how Belcastro, who stood about 4 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 85 pounds, was dragged and beaten, had numerous skull fractures and was struck with such force that her hearing aid fragmented in her ear canal.

Germaniuk said in the more than 8,000 autopsies he has performed, he has never encountered a fragmented hearing aid, and it was impossible to say how many times Belcastro was struck by LaRosa, who was 15 at the time of the murder. Germaniuk said Belcastro’s injuries were worse than what might be seen in a fatal car accident where someone goes through a windshield and hits a tree. LaRosa sat expressionless with arms crossed in his orange jail jumpsuit while Germaniuk testified.

“The top of her skull was crushed,” Germaniuk said.

Psychologist Daniel Davis discussed his evaluation of LaRosa’s mental state and a background that includes coming from a broken home, a family history of susbstance abuse and mental illness, and personal history of substance abuse, behavior issues and diagnoses that include attention deficit hyperactivity and bipolar disorders.

Davis also said LaRosa has a history that includes stealing, jealousy, lack of self-care and being immune to punishment. In the past, he had experienced side effects from medications he was prescribed for mood disorders and he was once accused of being a sexual offender.

LaRosa, who reads at a seventh grade level and has received mental health care since the age of 8, has expressed remorse for the crime and has said he alone is responsible and that his parents and no one else can be blamed, Davis said. LaRosa told Davis he feels guilt and sadness, and he can’t stop thinking about what he did and he deserves life in prison, Davis testified.

“What you see is a youth that has serious emotional and behavioral problems,” Davis said.

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