Niles teen to be sentenced in April for murder of elderly neighb - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

Niles teen to be sentenced in April for murder of elderly neighbor

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NILES, Ohio -

The murder trial of a Niles teen abruptly shifts directions after the defendant decides to enter a plea of no contest.

Instead of hearing opening statements, Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Wyatt McKay told Jacob Larosa he would soon learn his punishment for the deadly beating death of his elderly neighbor.

Attorneys for the 18-year-old, who was only 15 when he was arrested and charged in the death of 94-year-old Marie Belcastro, say he made the decision to enter the plea Tuesday morning.

"There were discussions of this nature within the last couple of weeks that this may be a possibility," said Chris Becker, Assistant Trumbull County Prosecutor.

The plea comes after just one day of listening to potential jurors share their feelings about sitting on the high profile case.

"This potential jury pool was very clear about the crimes," Becker said. "They were going to follow the law. They were not going to be swayed in any way."

Of the 26 potential jurors questioned Monday, 17 were excused, many due to pretrial publicity. 

Becker said some of those questioned wanted the death penalty option, even though it's not eligible in Larosa's case because he was just a minor when the crime took place.

The amount of evidence may also explain why Larosa decided to keep the case from going to trial. Becker says Niles police detectives and BCI collected blood samples and DNA evidence on Larosa that matched the identity of Marie Belcastro in the hours following her death. 

If the case went to trial, Becker says an expert would have testified that Larosa's shoes covered in blood would have matched the shoeprints found throughout Belcastro's Cherry Avenue home. 

A whiskey bottle believed to be taken from Belcastro's home was found near the scene with DNA that Becker says matched that of Larosa and Belcastro. 

Instead of putting his fate in the hands of a jury, a judge will now decide how long Larosa will be locked away.

"We're prepared and will be preparing for the next month to argue that he serve life with no possibility ever of parole in this case for these heinous crimes," Becker said.

Larosa could serve as little as life in prison with the possibility of parole after serving 20 years. Becker says they consider Larsoa a danger to society and want to see him put behind bars for the rest of his life.

Larosa will be sentenced in April after a pre-sentence report is completed.

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