Prosecutor: Teen beat Niles grandma, 94, to death

Homicide on Cherry Street in Niles
Emergency workers stand outside a home on Cherry Street in Niles, where the Trumbull County Coroner says Marie Belcastro, 94, was beaten to death.

NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Prosecutor Dennis Watkins announced in a press release Wednesday that a fifteen-year-old male originally detained in connection with the death of a 94-year-old woman in Niles has been charged with aggravated murder.

According to the release, police determined that the death of Marie Belcastro, 94, was a homicide after arriving at her house. Assistant prosecutors then determined that there was probable cause to charge Jacob Larosa, 15, with aggravated murder, the release stated.

Watkins stated in the release that he believes Larosa should be tried as an adult and that assistant prosecutors will be working to transfer the case from juvenile court to the adult court system.

Larosa appeared at a detention hearing Wednesday and will have a plea hearing within three days where he will be formally charged.

Defense attorney Bob Koker, who is representing Larosa, declined to comment on the facts of the trial.

WKBN legal analyst Matt Mangino said Wednesday that cases involving juveniles are different from those involving adults.

“Even from the Supreme Court, juveniles are different from adults and their decision making process is different than adults,” Mangino said. “In some ways, the Supreme Court of the United States says that is mitigating.”

Police said the beating happened around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday. Neighbors and family members identified the victim as Belcastro, and Watkins confirmed the woman’s identity in Wednesday’s press release.

A family member doing a routine check on the victim found her, according to Niles Police Captain Ken Criswell.

Emergency workers took Larosa to the hospital Tuesday night, saying he was throwing up and appeared drunk.

The suspect’s sister, Kaela Larosa, said her brother was just released from the Juvenile Justice Center on Tuesday. She said he was there because he runs the streets and does not like to be at home.

“He smokes weed, but that is not a reason to judge him. That would not cause him to do this,” Larosa said. “I just don’t know why this is happening.”

Larosa said her brother told her that he was jumped by some classmates after school who threatened to kill him on Facebook and she thinks he is being set up.

“I know my brother is loving. He cares, he cries. He has stolen $10 from me and then wrote a note apologizing and he gave it back,” Kaela Larosa said.

Neighbor Michael Spencer said another neighbor who lives behind Belcastro has a surveillance camera on his garage that shows the teenager staggering around like he is drunk and carrying what appear to be two bottles. He said he told police about the camera and they watched the video at the scene.

Spencer said Belcastro is a very nice woman who got along with everyone. He said the suspect would cut her grass and rake her leaves to make a few extra dollars.

Police are asking any residents in the 500 block of Cherry, Lafayette or the adjacent alleys with home surveillance trained on the road or alley to call the Niles Police Detective Bureau.

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