NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The teen accused of killing an elderly woman in Niles pleaded no contest to the charges against him, and the judge found him guilty.
It’s been almost three years since 94-year-old Marie Belcastro was found murdered inside her Niles home.
Tuesday morning, the court was supposed to continue picking a jury for the trial against the now 18-year-old who was charged in connection with the crime. Instead, Jacob LaRosa entered his plea before a jury could be seated.
“These jurors were no-nonsense and weren’t gonna mess around,” Prosecutor Chris Becker said.
Judge Wyatt McKay found LaRosa guilty of the charges including aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery and attempted rape — all in connection to the brutal beating death of his neighbor in March of 2015 when he was just 15 years old.
“This was just a horrific, horrific crime scene and a horrific bludgeoning of a woman that, by all accounts, was a wonderful woman. Certainly no one, let alone Mrs. Belcastro, deserved the ending that she got to her life,” Becker said.
Neighbors told police that Belcastro and LaRosa knew each other because Belcastro paid LaRosa to mow her lawn.
“She was a nice woman,” said Charles Winwood, a neighbor and witness. “She’d give anything to anybody.”
Investigators said there was blood spatter throughout the home, as well as bloody footprints. Prosecutors said when LaRosa was found at his house, he had blood on his hands and underwear, and was throwing up in a bathroom.
LaRosa was taken to the hospital because he was incoherent and appeared to be intoxicated, according to court documents.
At the hospital, police said LaRosa initially denied being in the victim’s house but later changed his story, claiming he went in a side door and that Belcastro gave him $10, the report states.
Many of Belcastro’s neighbors, Winwood included, were preparing to take the stand this week for trial. Video from Winwood’s surveillance cameras was going to be entered as evidence in the case.
“It happened to be our video cameras that caught him in the alleyway that day,” Winwood said.
He said the footage shows LaRosa at that side door, which had been forced open and broken, according to court documents.
Now that LaRosa has been convicted of the crime and booked into the Trumbull County Jail, prosecutors are busy preparing for what they call the real battle in this case.
“We’re going to prepare now for the sentencing hearing and, like I said, our goal is to get him life imprisonment without the possibility of parole at any point in his life,” Becker said.
The sentencing phase of this case begins on April 5. LaRosa could spend the rest of his life behind bars.