Life sentences of teen killer upheld by court
WARREN — Convicted murderer Jacob LaRosa’s effort to have the 11th District Court of Appeals overturn the consecutive life sentences given to him in connection with the death of a 94-year-old Niles resident was denied on Tuesday.
Marie Belcastro, 509 Cherry St., Niles, was brutally murdered on March 31, 2015. LaRosa was 15 at the time of the crime.
He was charged on Dec. 16, 2015 by a Trumbull County grand jury with multiple counts, including aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and attempted rape. During the February 2018 jury selection, LaRosa’s legal team entered a no contest plea to all charges.
LaRosa was given a sentence of life without parole on the aggravated murder charge, 11 years on the aggravated burglary charge, 11 years on the aggravated robbery charge and eight years on the rape charge, with each sentence served consecutively.
The court ordered the consecutive sentences because it believed LaRosa failed to show remorse and the the consecutive terms were necessary “to protect the public and punish him.”
In the appeal, LaRosa’s defense lawyers argued, among other things:
• The juvenile court abused its discretion when it determined he was not amenable to treatment in the juvenile court;
• The decision to transfer the case to the court’s general division because of the amenability hearing was conducted in violation of due process;
• The trial court should not have allowed items seized while LaRosa was in the hospital to be entered into evidence, because they were seized without due process;
• The trial court lawyers were ineffective because they failed to challenge the search warrant used to obtain various swabs of his body;
• He was not advised of sex offender registration at the time of the plea;
• The life without probability of parole violated the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
The court of appeals , in a 33-page opinion, disagreed with all of the arguments, stating the trial court considered the record, considered all evidence in the sentencing hearing, oral statements and the allocution of the defendant.
“This court, and other courts, have upheld an imposition of consecutive sentences even where a life without the possibility of parole sentence is imposed,” the appeal court ruled.