An Ohio man who was 15 when he tried to rape his 94-year-old neighbor as he beat her to death with a flashlight learned his fate this week.
A Trumbull County judge on Friday sentenced Jacob LaRosa, now 19, to life in prison without parole for the March 2015 robbery, attempted rape, and murder of Marie Belcastro. The Vindicator reported that LaRosa broke into Belcastro’s home for cash to purchase alcohol. Belcastro reportedly knew her killer as he used to mow her lawn.
The Tribune Chronicle reported that the court learned how the then-15-year-old initially beat Belcastro with a Mag flashlight in her living room before dragging her to the bedroom and trying to rape her. At some point, he took possessions from the dining room and basement. Prosecutors claimed pieces of the 80-pound woman’s skull and hearing aid were recovered from the dining room.
“The physical evidence confirms that Marie Belcastro was indeed alive throughout the duration of these three separate assaults,” first assistant prosecutor Chris Becker wrote in a memorandum filed in May, per the Chronicle.
“One can only imagine the terror that went through her mind as this defendant struck her, over and over again, and then tried to rape her lifeless, dying body.”
WKBN reported that investigators found LaRosa in his home vomiting in his bathroom with blood on his hands and underwear. The teen was taken to the hospital as he was rambling and appeared intoxicated. A neighbor also told the outlet that a home surveillance camera caught him in a nearby alleyway on the day in question.
Trumbull County Coroner Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk testified during the trial that Belcastro’s face was “crushed” in the attack. He also said the assault was “so severe” that it’s unclear how many times LaRosa bludgeoned the nonagenarian with the flashlight, The Vindicator previously reported.
The judge said he reviewed five mitigating factors which could’ve reduced LaRosa’s sentence and found that none applied. In fact, Becker told The Vindicator after Friday’s sentencing hearing that LaRosa’s age saved him from the death penalty. Prosecutors alleged during the trial that LaRosa bragged to fellow inmates that he wanted to “hide her body and save her for later.”
According to WKBN, defense attorneys argued that “there is no evidence of irreparable corruption” in LaRosa’s case and said that a sentence of life without parole would be overturned due to its unconstitutionality. For reference, the Supreme Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama (2012) that life without parole for juvenile offenders is unconstitutional.
Defense attorneys reportedly plan to appeal Friday’s sentence.
[Featured image: Jacob LaRosa/Trumbull County Jail; Marie Belcastro/WKBN video screengrab]