Consequences of SB 256

Senate Bill 256 has been signed into law. This bill will have profound negative consequences, which will be documented on this page. We are saddened that these horrific consequences were allowed to occur.

If you are a victim who is impacted by SB 256 or if you would like more information on it, please contact me at [email protected].

Sign our petition to Ohio lawmakers to help victims by amending current law. And email all Ohio legislators (emails listed below).

Several Ohio victims and advocates have created the Ohio Coalition for Safety and Fairness. Please follow OCSF on Twitter and Facebook and visit the website.

Statement on SB 256 becoming law from our Ohio coordinator


NOVJM is sad to report that Governor DeWine has signed SB 256, which requires all juvenile criminals to be eligible for parole with the narrow exemption of triple murderers. Double murderers are eligible after 30 years while murderers who kill one person are eligible after 25 years. The triple homicide exception only applies to principal offenders, meaning that accomplices who participate in the murders of three or more people are eligible for parole. There are also no exceptions made for other types of aggravated murders, such as murders committed during a rape or murders of children. Non-homicide offenders are eligible for parole after 18 years, regardless of the number of people they harm on the impact of the crimes on victims. 

256 endangers Ohioans by making several dangerous criminals including a quadruple murderer, thrill killers, rapists, and a necrophile, eligible for parole. The bill also forces victims to relive the crimes at parole hearings, resulting in significant trauma. This harmful and dangerous bill was rammed through with little consideration for victims and safety. It was supported by well-funded juvenile offender advocates who used propaganda, such as pictures of young children. Once again, victims have been significantly harmed. 

SB 256 is a dangerous bill that passed due to recklessness and gross negligence on the part of politicians and lies and propaganda on the part of activists. 256 will directly lead to violent crime. The writing is on the wall and that writing is in blood.

Complete statement

NOVJM is sad to report that Senate Bill 256 was signed into law by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine. NOVJM opposed SB 256 because of the impact it has on victims and public safety. More information on our position can be found on our main page on the bill and in our letter to the House Speaker. The bill, which reduces sentencing options for juvenile criminals, was rammed through without consideration for the impact on public safety and justice. It was backed by well-funded juvenile offender advocates who used manipulation and propaganda to promote their agenda of freeing violent criminals. 256 endangers Ohioans by making many dangerous criminals, including rapists, a necrophilie, and mass murderers eligible for parole. 256 also inflicts devastating harm on victims, by forcing them to endure traumatizing parole hearings. Lawmakers who supported the bill recklessly and/or negligently disregarded these harms and sent the message that the freedom of violent criminals matters more than victims’ rights and safety. 

SB 256 requires that juvenile criminals be eligible for parole unless they murder three or more people. The triple homicide exception was added to prevent the notorious Chardon High School killer T.J. Lane from getting out of prison. Murderers who kill two people are eligible for parole after 30 years, while murderers who kill one person are eligible after 25 years. The multiple homicide exceptions only apply to those who actually kill two or more people. They do not apply to attempted murders. This means that criminals like Devonere Simmonds, who murder two people and attempt to murder several others, are required to be eligible for parole. Under 256, a juvenile could kill two people and injure and attempt to murder 20 people but still be eligible for parole after 30 years. A juvenile who kills one person and injures and attempts to murder 20 people is eligible for parole after 25 years. If they shoot and attempt to kill 20 people, but succeed in killing none, they are required to be parole eligible after 18 years, as described below.

The multiple homicide exceptions only apply when the killer is the principal offender in each murder.  The bill requires that killers like Jordyn Wade, who actively participate in multiple murders, but who are not principal offenders, be eligible for parole. A juvenile could actively participate in the murders of dozens of people but if they were not the principal offender, they can get out after 25 years.  Let’s say two terrorists go on a shooting rampage. The juvenile terrorist shoots and kills two people and perhaps shoots and injures many more. His partner in crime shoots and kills 20 people. The juvenile terrorist was the principal offender in two murders and an active accomplice in 20 murders. In total, he is responsible for 22 murders. Yet he is required to be eligible for parole. This just doesn’t add up. Our law should not be written like this.

While 256 allows juvenile triple homicide offenders to be sentenced to life without parole, it mandates parole eligibility for juveniles who commit one or two aggravated murders, regardless of the aggravating factors involved. A juvenile can murder a child, commit a murder during a rape, or murder a witness and be required to be eligible for parole. 

Non-homicide offenders are eligible for parole after 18 years, regardless of the number of people they harm or the impact of their crimes on victims. A juvenile could destroy someone’s life by inflicting significant injuries that disfigure, disable, or incapacitate them, and be released after a mere 18 years. A juvenile could rape nine people but be released after serving two years per victim. A juvenile could shoot and attempt to murder 18 people and get out after serving one year per victim.

SB 256 makes several dangerous criminals eligible for parole. They include:

Chaz Bunch and Brandon Moore. Bunch and Moore kidnapped and repeatedly gang-raped a young woman. Bunch wanted to murder her. Moore shoved a gun in her mouth and threatened to harm her and her family if she told anyone about the crimes. Because these crimes were committed in 2001, 19 years ago, Moore and Bunch are immediately eligible for parole. 

Devonere Simmonds. Simmonds murdered two people and attempted to murder two others during a 2013 crime spree. One of the murders involved Simmonds shooting a store clerk in the eye during a robbery, departing, and then returning to fatally shoot the wounded man in the head.

Gavon Ramsay. Ramsay invaded a 98-year-old woman’s home,  strangled her to death and then undressed and sexually abused her corpse for several hours, taking disturbing pictures and video of the abuse. Ramsay was interested in serial killers and had long fantasized about raping and murdering people.

 Jacob LaRosa. LaRosa invaded the home of a 94-year-old woman, attempted to rape her, and beat her to death with a heavy metal flashlight. 

Jordyn Wade. Wade was an active participant in the murders of four people and the attempted murder of one other during a home invasion robbery. During the home invasion, Wade and his partner in crime Robert Adams took the victims hostage, robbed them, and forced them into the basement. Adams asked Wade, “should I off (kill) them all?” Wade answered, “yes.” Adams then shot the five victims, murdering four of them. A 16 year old girl was shot in the head but survived by playing dead. 

These crimes are not less heinous than T.J. Lane’s mass murder. Yet, lawmakers felt that while an exception should be made to prevent Lane from leaving prison, these other rapists and killers should be able to be released early. 

Lawmakers voted to allow these criminals to be released into our communities. This irresponsible move will, without a doubt, create more victims–paroled criminals often re-offend. 256 will also force victims to endure agonizing parole hearings, relive the crimes, and live with the debilitating fear of the offenders being released and harming them again.

SB 256 was supported by advocates of reducing sentencing options for juvenile criminals. The advocates of juvenile offenders have vast amounts of money and power. NOVJM, on the other hand, has no funding. Advocates of the bill are more concerned with giving violent criminals a chance to be released than they are with protecting the rights of victims and public safety. The same can be said about lawmakers who voted for it. NOVJM repeatedly explained to members of both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Criminal Justice Committee the devastating impact this bill would have on victims and the dangers it posed. 

Members of the committees slapped victims in the face by voting for a bill they knew would harm us. They were also aware of the dangerous nature of SB 256. Again, we repeatedly explained that parole boards often release dangerous criminals and we repeatedly explained the types of dangerous criminals whose sentences would be reduced by 256. Committee members who voted for 256 disregarded those dangers. Apparently, they believe it is more important to give rapists, necrophiles, mass murderers, and other depraved criminals a chance to be released than it is to protect victims and the public.

In the Model Penal Code and the Ohio Revised Code, recklessness is defined as the callous disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk. By voting for SB 256, committee members callously disregarded the bill’s substantial and unjust risks and thus acted recklessly. 

Other lawmakers who we did not have a chance to communicate with likely did not consider the dangers of the bill or the impact it would have on victims. According to the Model Penal Code and the ORC, a person acts with negligence when they fail to perceive or avoid a risk that they should have been aware of. These lawmakers’ lack of concern for the devastating consequences of 256 is grossly negligent. 

We are particularly disappointed with Governor DeWine. DeWine claims to care about the safety of Ohio citizens. During the COVID-19 pandemic, DeWine shut down the entire state, arguing that the negative impact of the shutdown was worth it to save lives from the disease. NOVJM takes no position on the governor’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic–that is completely unrelated to our organization’s mission of supporting murder victims’ families. We will, however, point out DeWine’s inconsistency. 

If shutting down an entire state is worth it to save lives from COVID shouldn’t incarcerating violent offenders be worth it to protect people from violent crime and save lives? Keeping rapists and murderers in prison is less disruptive than shutting down Ohio. 

To us, DeWine’s support for SB 256 reveals stunning hypocrisy. If DeWine truly cares about the safety of Ohioans, he would not support releasing criminals like Brandon Moore and Gavon Ramsay. Apparently, DeWine only cares about protecting his citizens from dangers that come in the form of a virus. However, he will not protect his citizens from dangers that come in the form of psychopathic criminals. By supporting 256, DeWine and other lawmakers sent a very clear message to Ohioans–your safety matters less than the freedom of violent criminals.

One of the reasons 256 passed was the propaganda used by its advocates. 256 proponents repeatedly called the violent criminals it would release “children“, painting an inaccurate image and tricking people into associating violent teen criminals with childhood traits such as innocence and vulnerability. By using this term, proponents exploited the natural urge we all have to protect actual children. Some 256 advocates even used pictures of seven and eight-year-old children to promote the bill, even though most of the criminals whose sentences were reduced by the bill were 16 and 17 when they committed the crimes. 

256 was rushed through with little consideration. It was in the House Criminal Justice Committee for under a month. A bill that retroactively reduces the sentences of rapists, murderers, and other violent criminals, and that has a significant impact on victims’ rights and public safety should be more carefully considered. Ramming this through without considering its consequences was negligent, reckless, and irresponsible.

SB 256 will cause devastating harms to victims and entire communities. Supporters of the bill, including activists, lobbyists, and politicians, are directly responsible for this harm. NOVJM believes that, at some point, an offender will be paroled due to SB 256 and go on to re-offend. When this happens, supporters of SB 256 will have blood on their hands. They also will have tears on their hands–tears shed by devastated victims who have to endure traumatic parole hearings. NOVJM urges lawmakers to consider safety and victims’ rights in the future. As for the situation now, what we will say is this: SB 256 is a dangerous bill that passed due to recklessness and gross negligence on the part of politicians and lies and propaganda on the part of activists. 256 will directly lead to violent crime. The writing is on the wall and that writing is in blood.

Impact on Victims

On this page, we explain the devastating impact SB 256 is having on Ohio victims.

Speaking out

On this episode of Roberta Glass’s True Crime Report, an NOVJM volunteer explains the dangerous and devastating consequences of SB 256.

The volunteer also speaks about SB 256 in this episode.

Our coalition

Several Ohio victims and advocates have created the Ohio Coalition for Safety and Fairness. The goal of OCSF is to address the devastating consequences of SB 256. Please follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Hold supporters accountable

SB 256 was supported by the Alliance for Safety and Justice, Americans for Prosperity, Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, Office of the Public DefenderOhio Justice & Policy Center, Players Coalition, Represent Justice, and Responsible Business Initiative for Justice.

Supporters of 256 are directly responsible for the bill’s negative impacts.

Hold lawmakers accountable

As with the organizations listed above, politicians who supported 256 are directly responsible for its negative consequences. We encourage people to message politicians who sponsored and voted for SB 256 and express concerns.

Governor DeWine

Contact Governor DeWine using this link.


The main sponsors of 256 were Nathan Manning ([email protected]) and Peggy Lehner. Co-sponsors include:

Erica C. Crawley ([email protected])
Jeffrey Crossman ([email protected])
Al Cutrona ([email protected])
Tavia Galonski ([email protected])
Catherine D. Ingram ([email protected])
George F. Lang (now a senator) ([email protected])
David Leland ([email protected])
Mary Lightbody ([email protected])
Joe Miller ([email protected])
C. Allison Russo ([email protected])
William Seitz ([email protected])
Michael Sheehy ([email protected])
Kent Smith ([email protected])
J. Todd Smith
Lisa Sobecki ([email protected])
Bride Rose Sweeney ([email protected])
Emilia Strong Sykes ([email protected])
Thomas West ([email protected])
Nickie Antonio ([email protected])
Louis W. Blessing, III ([email protected])
Dave Burke
Hearcel Craig ([email protected])
Matt Dolan ([email protected])
John Eklund
Teresa Fedor ([email protected])
Bob D. Hackett ([email protected])
Jay Hottinger ([email protected])
Stephen A. Huffman ([email protected])
Stephanie Kunze ([email protected])
Tina Maharath ([email protected])
Vernon Sykes ([email protected])
Cecil Thomas ([email protected])
Sandra R. Williams ([email protected])
Steve Wilson ([email protected])

(If there is no email listed and no page hyper-linked, they are no longer a senator or representative).


Below is a list of lawmakers who voted for SB 256.

Senate Judiciary Committee–September 16
John Eklund (R)

Theresa Gavarone (R)

Matt Huffman (R)

Peggy Lehner (R)

Nathan H. Manning (R)

Cecil Thomas (D)

Senate–September 23

Nickie Antonio (D)

Louis W. Blessing, III (R)
Andrew O. Brenner (R)

Dave Burke (R)
Hearcel Craig (D)

Matt Dolan (R)
John Eklund (R)

Teresa Fedor (D)
Theresa Gavarone (R)

Bob D. Hackett (R)
Jay Hottinger (R)

Matt Huffman (R)
Stephen A. Huffman (R)

Terry Johnson (R)
Stephanie Kunze (R)

Peggy Lehner (R)
Tina Maharath (D)

Nathan H. Manning (R)
Rob McColley (R)

Larry Obhof (R)
Bob Peterson (R)

Kristina Roegner (R)
Michael A. Rulli (R)

Kirk Schuring (R)
Vernon Sykes (D)

Cecil Thomas (D)
Sandra R. Williams (D)

Steve Wilson (R)
Kenny Yuko (D)

House Criminal Justice Committee-December 17

Jeffrey Crossman (D)

Al Cutrona (R)
Tavia Galonski (D)

George F. Lang (R)
David Leland (D)

Phil Plummer (R)
William Seitz (R)

Todd Smith (R)
Thomas West (D)

House-December 17

Cindy Abrams (R)

Brian Baldridge (R)
John Becker (R)

Kristin Boggs (D)
Juanita Brent (D)

Tom Brinkman (R)
Jamie Callender (R)

Rick Carfagna (R)
Sara Carruthers (R)

Jack Cera (D)
Randi Clites (D)

Erica C. Crawley (D)
Jeffrey Crossman (D)

Robert R. Cupp (R)
Al Cutrona (R)

Bill Dean (R)
Sedrick Denson (D)

Mark Fraizer (R)
Tavia Galonski (D)

Haraz N. Ghanbari (R)
Timothy Ginter (R)

Doug Green (R)
Dave Greenspan (R)

Stephen D. Hambley (R)
Paula Hicks Hudson (D)

Brett Hudson Hillyer (R)
Adam Holmes (R)

Ron Hood (R)
James M. Hoops (R)

Stephanie Howse (D)
Catherine D. Ingram (D)

Don Jones (R)
Kris Jordan (R)

Candice R. Keller (R)
Brigid Kelly (D)

Darrell Kick (R)
J. Kyle Koehler (R)

Jeff LaRe (R)
Laura Lanese (R)

George F. Lang (R)
David Leland (D)

Mary Lightbody (D)
P. Scott Lipps (R)

Beth Liston (D)
Susan Manchester (R)

Gayle Manning (R)
Riordan T. McClain (R)

Adam C. Miller (D)
Joe Miller (D)

Jessica Miranda (D)
Scott Oelslager (R)

Rick Perales (R)
Phil Plummer (R)

Bill Reineke (R)
Tracy Richardson (R)

Craig S. Riedel (R)
Phil Robinson (D)

Bill Roemer (R)
Mark J. Romanchuk (R)

Allison Russo (D)
William Seitz (R)

Michael Sheehy (D)
Michael Skindell (D)

Kent Smith (D)
Todd Smith (R)

Lisa Sobecki (D)
Dick Stein (R)

Jason Stephens (R)
Reggie Stoltzfus (R)

Fred Strahorn (D)
D. J. Swearingen (R)

Bride Rose Sweeney (D)
Emilia Strong Sykes (D)

Thomas West (D)
Shane Wilkin (R)

What you can do

See this page to learn more about what you can do to fight SB 256.

Sign our petition. And email the entire Ohio Legislature and tell them to amend the law. You can write your own letter or use the letter given below.

Dear Ohio Legislature,

My name is ____. I am emailing to express outrage about the enactment of Senate Bill 256. SB 256 mandates parole hearings for almost all juvenile offenders, including those responsible for the most horrific crimes. This unjust law devalues and re-traumatizes victims, demeans crimes, and endangers society. Please show compassion for victims and amend this law.


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Response to comments by SB 256 sponsors and supporters

Read our responses to comments made by SB 256 supporters and sponsors.

Who did lawmakers vote to release?

The Ohio Legislative Services Commission projects that 50 or 60 inmates will immediately become eligible for parole. (See Ohio lawmakers seek to stop sentences of life without parole for youth offenders).

Below are profiles of several offenders whose sentences were reduced by SB 256. NOVJM told both the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Criminal Justice Committee about these cases. Nevertheless, members of both committees voted to send along SB 256.

Brandon Moore and Chaz Bunch

Offender Photo

Brandon Moore and Chaz Bunch kidnapped a young woman and viciously gang-raped her. Bunch was sentenced to 49 years in prison while Moore was sentenced to 50 years. SB 256 may dramatically reduce their sentences by almost two thirds. Both rapists are now eligible after 18 years.

The brutal kidnapping and rape of victim “M.K.” was committed in August 2001. SB 256 makes both assailants eligible for parole after 18 years. SB 256 was enacted 19 years after the crimes in January 2021. Therefore, SB 256 immediately could make both attackers eligible for parole.

Offender Photo

Details of the crime

We are copying the entire graphic expert from the Ohio Supreme Court ruling to illustrate the dangerous nature of releasing violent criminals like Bunch and Moore so early. 

Later that night, at around 10:20, M.K., a 21-year-old student at Youngstown State University, arrived for her night-shift job at a group home for mentally handicapped women. While removing some things from the trunk of her car, she noticed a black car driving up the street and stopping a few houses away.

Moore, wearing a mask, emerged from the vehicle and started running toward her. When he arrived at her vehicle, he pressed a gun against her and instructed her to give him all her money and belongings. When a porch light came on at the group home, Moore ordered M.K. to get into the passenger seat of her car. Moore then got into the driver’s seat, ordered M.K. to start the car, and drove away with her.

As they were driving, he ordered her to give him her jewelry. After they drove a short distance, Moore stopped the car briefly behind the black car. Chaz Bunch entered the victim’s car through the rear passenger door. Bunch put a gun to her head and demanded her money.

Moore continued driving, following the black car, which was being driven by Andre Bundy. As Moore drove, he inserted his fingers into M.K.’s vagina. M.K. pleaded for her life. At one point, Moore drove close enough to the black car that he almost hit it, jerking to a stop; at that point, the cars were so close that M.K. could make out the black car’s license plate. She memorized the number.

Eventually, Moore pulled ahead of the black car and drove down a dead-end street. The black car followed. Both cars parked near a gravel lot, and Bunch ordered M.K. out of the car. Once outside the car, Moore and Bunch assaulted M.K., grabbing her by the hair and forcing their penises into her mouth; one would orally rape her while the other forced her head down. This was repeated two or three times, at gunpoint.

Moore and Bunch then directed M.K. to the trunk of her car. At this point, another man, Jamar Callier, exited the black car and went through M.K.’s belongings in the trunk. M.K. was told to pull her pants down and turn around. M.K. resisted, and in an attempt to avoid any further violence, told the attackers she was pregnant (she was not, in fact, pregnant). But they showed no mercy; Moore and Bunch pushed her against the car, and at least one of them anally raped her.

After the anal rape, Bunch threw M.K. to the ground, and he and Moore proceeded to vaginally and orally rape her. While one raped her vaginally, the other would force his penis into her mouth, and they would then switch places. Both were armed during the rapes.

The attack finally ended when Callier pushed Bunch off M.K. Bunch said that he wanted to kill M.K., but Callier would not let him, telling Bunch that he could not kill a pregnant woman. Moore put his gun into M.K.’s mouth and told her, “Since you were so good, I won’t kill you.” Moore warned her that they knew who she was; he threatened to harm her and her family if she told anyone what had happened.

Hysterical, M.K. got back into her car and drove immediately to the home of a relative of her boyfriend, where she had been attending a cookout before leaving to go to work. She arrived back at the party, got out of her car, and ran through the yard, screaming for help. When people came to her aid, she immediately yelled out the license-plate number she had memorized. Based on the license-plate number, police were eventually able to arrest all four people involved in the attack on M.K.

In her testimony at trial, M.K. described the effect of the attack on her life: “[T]hey killed a part of me. They killed a part of my [soul] that I can never get back.”

Billy Wayne Smith

Offender Photo

Victim: Kevin Burks, 25

Age at time of murder: 17, 10 months, and 13 days

Crime date: November 16, 1987

Crime location: Jefferson County

Partner in crime: David Lee Hudson, 24, Peter Martin, 23, and Robert Carpenter, 24

Crimes: Kidnapping, robbery, torture, aggravated murder, and hate crime

Murder method: Stabbing, shooting, and slashing

Murder motivation:  Racially motivated

Convictions: Kidnapping, aggravated robbery, and aggravated murder

Sentence: 59 years to life later reduced to 25 years to life by SB 256

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the NorthEast Ohio Correctional Center and eligible for parole in January 2022 due to SB 256


That fateful night, killers went on a hunt for a specific black man. When they failed to find that specific person, they set their sights on Kevin, who was staying at his grandmother’s house. The killers told Kevin that a friend was in need and lured him to his death in a remote Brush Creek Township location. Smith and his co-defendants drove Kevin to the remote area where they proceeded to torture, stab, and shoot Kevin and slit his throat.

Smith, who was less than two months away from turning 18, was sentenced to life with parole eligibility after 59 years. His parole date was set for 2051. However, SB 256 mandates that juveniles who murder one person be up for parole after no more than 25 years. The murderer’s parole date is now set for 2022.


Brogan Rafferty

Offender Photo

Murder victims: Ralph Geiger, 56, David Pauley, 51, and Timothy Kern, 47

Attempted murder victim: Scott Davis, 49

Age at time of murders: 16

Crime dates: August 2011-November 2011

Crime location: Akron and a southeast OH farm

Partner in crime: Richard Beasley

Murder method: Gunshots to the victims’ heads

David Pauley Mom 101
David–murder victim

Weapon: Victims were injured and killed with .32 and .38 caliber bullets

Motivation: Robbery

Convictions: Aggravated robbery, kidnapping, attempted aggravated murder, and aggravated murder

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) later reduced to 25 years to life by SB 256

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Trumbull Correctional Institution and eligible for parole in November 2036 due to SB 256

Timothy Kern, of Massillon, Ohio, did get the job. His body was found last week.
Timothy–murder victim


Rafferty and his co-defendant Scott Davis murdered three men and attempted to murder another between August and November of 2011. The serial killers lured the men to their deaths with fake job offers. They targeted men who were desperate for work and down on their luck and who had few family ties that might highlight their disappearance.

“We took him out to the woods on a humid summer’s night … The loud crack echoed and I didn’t hear the thud.”

Poem found on Rafferty’s computer describing the murder of Ralph Geiger
Ralph Geiger Mom 1
Ralph–murder victim

Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison without parole. However, SB 256, which went into effect on April 12, 2021, mandates that all juvenile criminals be eligible for parole unless they are the principal offender in at least three murders.



August: Ralph Geiger disappears after leaving for a job on a farm in southern Ohio.

October 9: David Pauley responds to an ad for a job as a farm caretaker. Scott Davis, a self-employed landscaper in South Carolina who wants to move back to Ohio, also responds to a Craigslist ad for a job on a cattle farm.

October 10: Timothy Kern responds to a Craigslist ad for a farm caretaker.

October 22: David speaks with his sister on the phone for the last time.

November 6: Scott meets Rafferty and Beasley. The serial killers lure Scott to a wooded area and attempt to murder him. Scott survives with a gunshot wound to the elbow.

November 13: The killers shoot Timothy in the head and murder him.

November 15: Investigators find David’s mostly naked body in a grave. It is later determined that he was killed by a single gunshot to the head.

November 25: Ralph’s naked body is found in a shallow grave. Timothy’s body is found in the woods behind a vacant mall in Akron. Ralph was killed by a single gunshot to the head, while Timothy suffered five gunshots to the head.


Chad Barnette and James Goins

Earlier sentences affected by life ban

Offender Photo
Offender Photo


Another Mahoning County case involves Chad Barnette and James Goins, who were both 16 when they caused mayhem in their Youngstown neighborhood in January 2001 by attacking an 84-year-old man who had gone out to get his newspaper. The victim suffered spinal cord contusion, fractured vertebrae, a concussion, punctured lung and broken ribs.

Later that night, they kicked their way into the home of a man, 64, who was nearly wheelchair-bound and his wife. They had a sawed-off shotgun and beat the couple. Barnette and Goins were each convicted of attempted aggravated murder, and multiple counts of aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and felonious assault, and each was sentenced to about 80 years in prison.

Under the new sentencing law, each is eligible for a parole hearing after serving 18 years, Rivera said. Both were sentenced in March 2002, meaning they have served just over 18 years already. Eighteen years is the start of parole eligibility for juvenile offenders who commit non-homicide offenses, Rivera said.

Clinton Dickens

Offender Photo

Victims: Wendy Offredo, 21, and Dawn McCreery, 20

Age at time of murders: 17 1/2

Crime date: September 1, 1986

Crime location: Norton, Ohio

Partner in crime: Richard Wade Cooey II, 19, and Kenneth Horonetz, 18 (Horonetz left before the rapes and murders)

Crimes: Kidnapping, robbery, rape, and killing to eliminate witnesses

Murder method: Beating and strangulation 

Weapon: Shoe laces and night stick 

Murder motivation: Witness elimination 

Convictions: Kidnapping, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, rape, and aggravated murder

Sentence: 95 years to life later reduced to 30 years to life by Senate Bill 256

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution and up for parole in October, 2021 due to SB 256


Wendy Offredo and Dawn McCreery murdered by Richard Cooey and Clinton  Dickens. | Guy Breau's SPACE
Wendy (left) and Dawn (right)

As Dawn and Wendy were driving to an inn after finishing their waitressing shifts, their car was struck by a large chunk of concrete, which had been thrown by Dickens from an overpass. Dickens, Cooey, and one other man were throwing objects off the overpass to amuse themselves. The three men drove Dawn and Wendy to a shopping mall where Wendy called her mother using a payphone. At the mall, Dickens suggested to the other men that they rob the girls. The men left the mall with Dawn and Wendy, only instead of taking them to the scene of the crash, they kidnapped them. Cooey and Dickens took the girls to an isolated wooded area while the other assailant demanded to be let out and left. Dickens and Cooey robbed and raped both women. Dickens decided that the girls needed to die, as they had heard his first name. The two rapists beat and strangled the women and hid their bodies. They were later apprehended. Cooey received the death penalty and was later executed while Dickens received 95 years to life in prison. Dickens’s sentence was reduced by SB 256.


Desmond Thomas

In 2019, Desmond Thomas, 16, attacked a woman as she strolled her baby and robbed her at gunpoint. He then returned and forced her into an alley at gunpoint and raped her.

Teen gets at least 21 years in prison for raping woman on Camp Chase Trail

John FuttyThe Columbus Dispatch

Feeling better as she recovered from the difficult birth of her daughter, the West Side woman decided to take the 6-month-old girl for a late afternoon walk on the nearby Camp Chase Trail.

Desmond L. Thomas, 18, sentenced Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, to 21 to 23 1/2 years in prison for the rape and robbery of a woman on the Camp Chase Trail when he was 16.

She was pushing the stroller on the path when she was confronted by a 16-year-old boy, armed with a handgun, who stole her cellphone and fled. Minutes later, he returned, forcing the 35-year-old woman off the path and raping her at gunpoint.

“I could potentially comprehend the motives behind a robbery, even though I had to console my daughter’s cries while he put a gun to my head,” the victim said Thursday in a Franklin County Common Pleas courtroom. But she called it “unconscionable” that the robber would return to rape her while her daughter screamed for her and “cried when I couldn’t respond.

“A baby is still a person with feelings and a sense of understanding and …. (she) will forever be scarred by what he did to me.”

The Dispatch generally does not identify the victims of rape or sexual assault. 

Thomas was sentenced to a minimum 21 years

Desmond L. Thomas, who was 16 when he attacked her on April 12, 2019, is now 18.

Thomas pleaded guilty to rape, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and two gun specifications on Nov. 2, about 14 months after the case was transferred to adult court by a juvenile court judge.

Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey M. Brown sentenced Thomas on Thursday to a minimum of 21 years in prison for the rape and attack.

Brown imposed a sentence of 21 to 23 1/2 years. The maximum combined sentence for the offenses is 33 to 38 1/2 years.

When he is released from prison, Thomas must register as a sex offender every 90 days for the rest of his life.

“This is a heinous crime,” said Brown, a judge for the past three years. “It’s one of the worst things I’ve heard of since I’ve been a judge. And thus I probably imposed one of the stricter sentences I’ve imposed. This court does not like to send young men to prison for a long period of time, but this court in this case has no choice.” 

Assistant prosecutor: Thomas demonstrated a ‘total lack of remorse’

Thomas, who lived about a block from where the attack took place on the multi-use trail north of West Broad Street near Haldy Avenue, became a suspect after sending the woman a Facebook friend request.

Columbus police obtained a DNA sample from him, which was a match for DNA recovered from the victim.

Thomas spoke only briefly when the judge asked if he wanted to make a statement.

“I feel tremendous remorse for what I’ve done,” he said. “I know it was wrong. I shouldn’t have done it.” 

Assistant Prosecutor Sayje Brown disputed Thomas’ courtroom remarks, saying his interview during a pre-sentencing investigation demonstrated “a complete and total lack of remorse.”

She said Thomas lied to investigators, claiming that he and the victim “had a relationship.”

A sentencing memo filed by Thomas’ attorney, Jeffrey Blosser, said Thomas had a traumatic childhood that included living in foster care and being sexually abused.

Victim suffers PTSD episodes after attack

The victim spoke at length about the toll that the attack has taken on her, including an ongoing battle with post traumatic stress syndrome that has made it difficult to care for her daughter.

Just hearing her daughter crying triggers PTSD episodes, she said.

The episodes can be so disabling, that “I struggle to walk, much less carry her,” she said.

“I’ve felt like a bad mother for somehow letting (the rape) happen to me in front of her and for how it was affecting my ability to care for her. I feel like he stole that precious first year.”

Before the attack, the woman said, she was recovering from a traumatic delivery that nearly took her life.

She didn’t ask the judge to hand down a specific sentence.

“It would be easy to request the maximum sentence for Mr. Thomas,” she said. “The pain in me wants that… I just hope whatever you decide will be long enough for him to truly come to terms with what he did with me…. and never hurt anyone in this way again.”

Devonere Simmonds

Murder victims: Imran Ashgar, 34, & Quinten Prater, 22

Attempted murder victims: James Norvet, 21, & William Rudd, 39

Age at time of crimes: 17

Crime locations:  Central Ohio

Crime date: July 2013

Crimes:  Aggravated murder, spree-killing, attempted murder, aggravated robbery, & carjacking

Partners in crime: Nathaniel Brunner, Daniel Durham

Weapon: .22 caliber handgun & a shotgun

Murder method: Gunshots to the head

Murder motivation: Robbery

Convictions: Aggravated robbery, aggravated murder, attempted murder, weapon under disability, & murder

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) plus 48 years (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Ohio State Penitentiary

Offender Photo
Prison photo


Simmonds, 17, went on a massive violent crime spree involving robbery, carjacking, and murder in the summer of 2013. During the spree, he shot and killed Quinten Prater during a robbery. A couple of days later, he shot and killed store clerk Imran Ashgar during another robbery. In Imran’s case, Simmonds shot the victim in the eye, left, and then returned to shoot the wounded man in the head. He also shot and injured James Norvet and William Rudd. The spree killer was sentenced to LWOP plus 48 years. But because Governor DeWine signed SB 256 into law, his sentence may be reduced to 30 years to life.


Eddie Burns

Offender Photo

Burns committed four armed robberies and two other robberies between August 10, 2017, and February 7, 2017, when he was 16 and 17. During one attack, he punched a 77-year-old man who was attempting to withdraw cash from an ATM. Burns robbed an 87-year-old man and left him duct taped to a chair inside the victim’s home. He robbed a reporter and her cameraman as they were parked in their news van covering a story, a Spectrum cable worker who was doing an installation job, and an Amazon delivery driver who was delivering packages. Finally, he robbed an elderly couple returning home from the grocery store. He nearly bludgeoned them to death with one of their own canes. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 27 years.

Eric Long

Victims: Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett, 25

Accomplices: Fonta Whipple, 26, & Jashawn Clark, 25,

Age at time of murders: 17

Crime date: March 18, 2009

Crime location: Sharonville, Ohio

Crimes: Double murder

Weapon: Firearm

Murder method: Gunshots

Convictions: Felonious assault, discharging a firearm near habitation/school, aggravated murder, weapon under disability, carrying a concealed weapon, & assault

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) plus 19 years (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Lebanon Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo

Summary of the crime

Whipple, Clark, and Long got into an argument with Keith Cobb and Scott Neblett at Garage Bar & Grill in Sharonville, OH. They followed the victims and, as they were driving on I-75, emptied their guns into Cobb and Neblett’s car, causing it to veer off the highway and roll over. The victims died of gunshot wounds.


Gavon Ramsay

Victim: Margaret Douglas, 98

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: April 9, 2018

Crime location: Wadsworth, Ohio

Murder method: Strangulation

Murder motivation: Thrill & enjoyment

Convictions:  Aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, kidnapping, & abuse of a corpse

Sentence:  Life without parole (LWOP) (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Grafton Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo


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On April 6, 2018, Ramsay, 17, broke into Margaret’s Wadsworth, Ohio, home. He found the 98-year-old sleeping on the couch and took a video of her. Ramsay, who had been fantasizing about raping and murdering people for months, and who wanted to kill someone to see how it would feel, strangled Margaret to death. Ramsay, who has been diagnosed with sexual sadism disorder, then undressed her dead body and abused her for two hours, taking photographs and videos along the way. Several of the photographs and videos Ramsay took were of a sexual nature. Ramsay then stuffed her body in a closet and left her there. He placed the gruesome photos of the crime in a secret file on his phone so that he could watch them.

Ramsay was sentenced to life without parole. He appealed and his sentence was upheld. However, Ramsay’s LWOP may be reduced by Senate Bill 256. Ramsay is a highly disturbed young man whose notebook contained writings about raping people, fantasies about strangling and killing people, and serial killer biographies. He is a diagnosed sexual sadist.


Jacob LaRosa

Victim: Marie Belcastro, 94

Age at time of murder: 15

Crime location: Niles, Ohio

Crime date: March 31, 2015

Crimes: Aggravated murder, attempted rape, aggravated robbery, home invasion, & aggravated burglary

Weapon: Heavy metal flashlight

Murder method: Beating to death

Convictions: Aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, & attempted rape

Sentence: Life without parole (LWOP) (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Prison photo
Obituary for Marie R. Belcastro


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LaRosa invaded 94-year-old Marie’s home, attempted to rape her, and beat her to death with a heavy metal flashlight. The beating Marie endured was so severe that her eyes ruptured and the bones in her face and the top of her skull were crushed. LaRosa was a highly disturbed teen, and showed no remorse for the evil crime, even bragging to other inmates about it. He was sentenced to LWOP and his sentence was upheld. However, the Ohio Legislature chose to retroactively change LaRosa’s sentence. The killer could be eligible for parole after 25 years.


Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office Press Release On SB 256 & Jacob LaRosa’s Sentence Reduction

Jordyn Wade

Victims: Tyajah Nelson, 18; Daniel Sharp, 26; Angela Harrison, 35; and Michael Ballour, 41. T.N., 16, survived. 

Crime location: Columbus, Ohio

Crime date: June 13, 2015

Age at time of murder: 16 & 11 months

Partner in crime: Robert Adams Jr., 28

Crimes: Quadruple murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, home invasion, & aggravated burglary

Weapon: Firearm

Murder method: Gunshots, mostly to the victims’ heads

Murder motivation: Robbery

Convictions: Aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, aggravated murder, attempted murder, & weapon under disability

Sentence: 172 1/2 years to life (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Ross Correctional Institution and had a parole hearing scheduled for March 2144

Offender Photo
Prison photo
Daniel Sharp Jr. from
Tyajah Nelson, age 18
Tyajah Nelson from
Michael Anthony Ballour from
Angela Harrison from

Summary of the crime

Wade participated in a quadruple murder along with one attempted murder during a home invasion robbery. Wade’s 28-year-old partner Robert Adams shot four victims to death and shot and wounded another victim. The survivor, a 16-year-old girl, was able to testify at trial. Wade was convicted and sentenced to life in prison with parole eligibility in 172 1/2 years. Though Wade was not the principal offender or the “trigger man” he had an active role in the massacre–Adams asked Wade, “should I off them all?” and Wade answered, “yes.” The butchering then began.


Joshua Wade

Victim: Titus Jamal Arnold, 23, plus several survivors

Age at time of murder: 16

Crime date: April 13, 2005

Crime location: Springfield

Partner in crime: Jason Dean, 30

Weapon: .40 caliber handgun

Murder method: Shot to the head

Convictions: Complicity in murder, aggravated robbery, discharge of a firearm at a habitation/school, attempted murder, & aggravated murder

Sentence:  56 years to life (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Pickaway Correctional Institution & has a parole hearing in March 2061

Offender Photo
Wade’s prison photo
Picture of Titus from a gun violence memorial


Wade and Dean went on a terrifying crime spree in the spring of 2005, which involved the robbery and murder of Urbana University senior and youth counselor Titus Arnold, along with several other acts of violence. Wade is in prison for life while Dean was sentenced to death and died due to natural causes in 2019. Due to SB 256, Wade may be eligible for parole after 25 years.

Timeline of the Crime Spree

April 10. Dean attempted to rob two people in a mini-mart parking lot. He shot one victim.

April 12. Dean and Wade fired shots at a home. A one-year-old girl and a pregnant woman were just centimeters away from being shot.

April 13. Titus left his job at a home for troubled youth just before midnight. Witnesses saw two men get out of a car, and chase Titus. They saw a man, who they recognized as Wade, shoot at Titus. He was robbed of $6.


Krillian Howard

Offender Photo

Howard committed four armed robberies between March 13, 2017, and April 12, 2017. He was 16 and 17 during the crimes. On March 13, Howard, his adult partner in crime Maurice Montgomery, and two unknown suspects robbed an 18-year-old man as he was walking to his girlfriend’s house in Cleveland. The robbers took the victim’s cellphone, backpack, and tennis shoes. On March 21, in Cleveland, Howard and his adult partner in crime Daryl Avent robbed a 57-year-old man as he was attempting to use an ATM machine. When the victim did not give up all his property he was pistol-whipped. The robbers stole the victim’s car as well. On March 31, 2017, Howard and Avent robbed a Cleveland Subway restaurant that had two employees and a customer inside. During the attack, Howard shot one employee in the arm. On April 12, Howard and an unknown suspect carjacked a 62-year-old female in Bath Township while she was stopped at a rest-stop. Howard pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 years.

Kyle Patrick

Victim: Michael Abighanem, 27

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: April 27, 2012

Crime location: Youngstown

Partner in crime: Reginald Whitfield, 21

Crimes: Aggravated murder, armed robbery, & tampering with evidence

Murder method: Gunshot

Weapon: Firearm

Murder motivation: Robbery

Sentence: 34 years to life (sentence may change due to Senate Bill 256)
Incarceration status:
 Incarcerated at the Mansfield Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Michael W.  Abighanem

Summary of the crime

Patrick and Whitfield murdered Michael during an orchestrated robbery.


Michael Hutchins

Offender Photo

In 2019, Hutchins, 17, attacked a 51-year-old woman as she was walking to her car from work. He raped her in a parking garage outside Quicken Loans Arena. Following the rape, he tried to abduct the victim in her own car. He had trouble with the gear shift and crashed into a wall as he attempted to leave the garage. The rapist then grabbed the victim’s cell phone, debit card, and cash and fled on foot. He also linked to a theft at Titan’s Gym and a robbery at the 5th Street Arcade that were committed just before the rape. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 33 years.

Michael Watson, Samuel Castle, and Tyler Morris

Victims: Timothy “T.J.” Maust, 26, murder victim, and Elizabeth Bunnell, 28, attempted murder victim 

Murderers: Tyler Morris, 17, Michael Watson, 17, Samuel Castle, 17, & Gregory Kuzawa II, 18

Crime date: June 10, 2019

Crime location: Ashland, Ohio 

Murder method: Gunshots 

Weapon: .22 caliber Ruger handgun

Murder motivation: Drug debt

Crimes: Aggravated murder, conspiracy to commit aggravated murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated robbery, attempted aggravated murder, & drug trafficking

Sentences: Watson–38 years to life; Morris–38 years to life; Castle–17 years; Kuzawa–19 years (SB 256 may result in sentence reductions for the juvenile offenders)

Incarceration status: Watson–incarcerated at the Noble Correctional Institution; Morris–incarcerated at the Madison Correctional Institution; Castle–incarcerated at the Ross Correctional Institution; Kuzawa–incarcerated at the Richland Correctional Institution

Offender Photo
Offender Photo
Offender Photo
Offender Photo

Summary of the crime

Watson, Kuzawa, and Castle invaded Elizabeth and T.J.’s home with the intent to rob them. Watson shot both victims, killing T.J. and injuring Elizabeth. Though Morris was not present during the murder, he was responsible for planning it.


Montez Cobb

Offender Photo

When Cobb was 16 he burglarized a Garfield Heights home and stole a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun. When he was 17, between April 22, 2017, and June 16, 2017, he committed six robberies. The brutal attacks all took place either on or in close proximity to the Cleveland State University campus. His victims included: a 57-year-old woman who was sitting on a park bench; a 23-year-old man who was walking to a friend’s car; a 22-year-old woman who was walking to her car in the parking garage of her apartment complex; an 82-year-old man and a 69-year-old female who were entering a car in a parking garage; a 66-year-old man who was in a parking lot attempting to pay for parking; and a 49-year-old woman who had just parked in a parking garage. Several of Cobb’s robberies involved physical violence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years.

Tremele Collins

Offender Photo

In November 2016, at 17, Collins went on a massive crime spree and committed three armed robberies. On November 3, he carjacked a 38-year-old cleaning lady who had just pulled into the driveway of a client. On November 14, Collins and an accomplice carjacked a 45-year-old woman as she was returning to work from lunch. November 19, Collins attempted to carjack a 53-year-old man as he was entering his car outside his home. Collins stuck a gun to his head, but the victim refused to comply and give him his vehicle. Collins repeatedly struck him in the head with the gun and got into the driver’s seat. But he could not start the vehicle. Because he was unable to steal the vehicle, Collins chased down the victim and attempted to rob him of his backpack, which had a laptop inside of it. He pistol-whipped the victim as neighbors called police. The robber plead guilty and was sentenced to 29 years.

The 133rd Ohio General Assembly granted more parole hearings to these criminals

SB 256 requires that juvenile offenders be entitled to parole hearings every five years instead of every 10 years. Though the 133rd GA did not reduce the sentences of the offenders in this list, SB 256 does mandate that they receive more parole hearings.

Billy Shafer

Victim: Sara West, five

Age at time of murder: 16

Crime date: February 14, 1993

Crime location: Zanesville

Crimes: Child molestation, murder of a child, corpse mutilation, conspiracy to commit mass murder, and terroristic threatening

Murder method: Stabbing and shooting

Weapon: Knife and gun

Murder motivation: Satanic ritual

Conviction: Aggravated murder

Sentence: 20 years to life
Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution

Sara West was murdered by Billy Joe Shafer in 1993. She was just 5 years old.Sara

Offender PhotoShafer is incarcerated at the Marion Correctional Institution


Shafer was an extremely disturbed young man who had an interest in Satanism, sacrificed animals, and desired to become a serial killer. He became acquainted with Sara’s father and agreed to babysit Sara and her three-year-old brother Seth. That fateful night, he killed little Sara after his plans to murder people at a friend’s house didn’t work. Shafer molested Sara, stabbed her, and shot her three times in the head. He also cut open her torso, removed her insides, and cut satanic symbols into parts of her body. Shafer also planned to murder Sara’s father and brother as well, but was prevented from carrying out those additional murders when Sara’s father entered through the wrong door. From in prison, he has continued to threaten to kill Sara’s family, who fear his potential release.


Christopher Ferrell

Offender Photo

Victim: Douglas Lash, 19

Age at time of murder: 17, 11 months, and three weeks

Crime date: February 11, 1992

Crime location: Newton Township

Partners in crime: Several other juveniles 

Murder method: Gunshot to the back of the head

Weapon: .380 caliber pistol

Convictions: Attempted aggravated burglary, aggravated burglary, aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping

Sentence: Life with parole

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Lebanon Correctional Institution

Summary of the crime

Christopher Ferrell was the leader of a burglary ring. The group committed a series of armed home invasions, with one of those invasions resulting in a murder. The murder victim was Douglas Lash, 19. As the gang was burglarizing Douglas’s home, he returned and interrupted the crime. Douglas tried to defend his home with a machete. Ferrell, who was one week away from his 18th birthday, forced Douglas into the living room at gun-point, commanded him to kneel and shot him in the head.


Fred Joseph Jr.

Victim: Officer John Utlak, 26

Age at time of murder: 17

Crime date: December 8, 1982

Crime location: Mineral Ridge

Partner in crime: Randy Fellows, 18

Crimes: Robbery and murder of a police officer

Murder method: Three gunshots including a close-range shot to the head  

Weapon: .22 caliber handgun

Convictions: Aggravated murder

Sentence: 30 years to life

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility and eligible for parole in 2021

Offender Photo


Joseph and Fellows, both drug informants, ambushed and murdered Officer Utlak during an undercover narcotics investigation. During a meeting with Officer Utlak, the drug informants shot him, robbed him, and left him to die. Joseph was denied parole in 2016. His next parole hearing was set for 2022. However, because of SB 256, his parole hearing was moved to 2021.

Patrolman John A. Utlak | Niles Police Department, Ohio
Officer Utlak


Jordan Stewart

Victim: Jane Juergens, 55

Age at time of murder:  16

Crime location: Westerville, Ohio

Crime date: October 20, 2013

Weapon: Knife

Murder method: 26 stab wounds

Convictions: Guilty plea to murder & tampering with evidence

Sentence: 18 years to life

Incarceration status: Incarcerated at the Madison Correctional Institution & has a parole hearing on September 2031

Offender Photo
Prison photo
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Summary of the crime

Stewart attacked Jane as she jogged on a trail and stabbed her to death. Jane, the CEO of PeopleGen of Westerville, was stabbed over two dozen times.


News on the consequences of SB 256

Op-eds and letters

Repeal new law that could set killers free

Killer Jacob LaRosa never faced the death penalty in his brutal slaying of his kind-hearted, elderly neighbor, but at least his family could take solace in knowing LaRosa’s conviction and sentencing meant he would never, ever again be free.

That is, until legislators recently passed a new retroactive law requiring that all juvenile offenders someday get a chance at parole. The grandson of LaRosa’s victim, 94-year-old Marie Belcastro, is right to be enraged by what he calls a “miscarriage of justice.”

Senate Bill 256 took effect earlier this month decreeing that just about anybody in prison for life who committed murder as a juvenile must be given a chance at parole.

Local lawmakers Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, and then-Rep. Gil Blair, D-Mineral Ridge, voted no.

The law applies to previous crimes and sentences, regardless of when a juvenile committed a crime or when they were sentenced, and forgetting that the sentence was perfectly legal under the Ohio and U.S. Supreme Courts at the time of the sentencing.

Brian Kirk, the grandson of Niles murder victim Belcastro, lashed out recently, saying the legislation should have been named the “Teenage Killer Protection Act.”

We agree.

What were lawmakers and our governor thinking?

Yes, we understand kids make mistakes and, generally speaking, people often deserve a second chance. But in cases like the brutal beating, attempted rape and mutilation of Belcastro leave no question that the offender, 15 at the time, deserves no opportunity ever to step foot outside prison and run the risk of ever again committing such carnage.

In explaining his sentence in October 2018, Trumbull Common Pleas Judge W. Wyatt McKay outlined the court’s effort to balance LaRosa’s age and possible mental deficits to the severity of the crime committed. He said there was evidence the teen likely would commit future crimes if ever released from prison.

At the young age of 15, LaRosa already had numerous dealings with the Trumbull County Juvenile Court and was in various drug and alcohol programs before being arrested for Belcastro’s murder.

At that time, even his parents had begun locking the doors within their house at night to keep LaRosa from stealing from family members. His stepfather began sleeping with a gun under his pillow because he was concerned about the teen’s violent tendencies.

At the time of LaRosa’s sentencing, Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker said this: “There’s no question that if he had been over 18 he would have gotten from any jury the death penalty. We couldn’t give him the death penalty, but Judge (W. Wyatt) McKay thoughtfully, carefully and professionally examined all of the factors and gave the only sentence that he could make.”

Not everyone can be rehabilitated. And frankly, juveniles convicted of such heinous crimes already have been given a second chance, because, in Ohio, they do not face the death penalty.

Further, the process of converting a juvenile case to adult court is arduous, with many hoops created for the very reason of protecting juveniles like this.

But once they’ve cleared all the hurdles, it’s because it’s been proven that the defendant deserves to be tried in adult court.

Tragically, LaRosa isn’t the only local juvenile to have committed such a horrible act before the age of 18.

Another that quickly comes to mind is Timothy Combs of Warren. Combs was just 17 when he and his co-defendant, Danny Lee Hill — 18 at the time — stopped 12-year-old Raymond Fife in 1985, in a wooded area near Palmyra Road SW, as the boy rode his bike to a Boy Scout meeting.

They brutally beat, strangled and mutilated Raymond, leaving him for dead. The boy died two days later.

Combs died in November 2018 at age 50 in prison where he had spent every minute since his conviction. Hill remains in prison, continuing to fight the death sentence that had been imposed 35 years ago.

Under the new retroactive state law, if Combs still were alive today, he, too, would have been eligible for parole.

Belcastro’s grandson is vowing to fight for the law’s repeal.


The law should be repealed. Like other Ohio cases, appeals to convictions and life sentences handed down to juvenile offenders should be heard only on merits or trial error. This blanket opportunity to get out of jail must not stand.

After already enduring such pain and suffering in the deaths of their loved ones, don’t victims’ families deserve peace in knowing they never again must endure the sadness and frustration of facing parole hearings or, worse, the killer’s release?