This page will document the impact SB 256 is having on victims.
Murder of Marie Belcastro
Family members of those who were murdered are calling Senate bill 256 ‘a cruel slap in the face.’ The family of Marie Belcastro is upset with a new Ohio law that took effect Monday that says juveniles who were given sentences of “life in prison,” like Bel
Family members of those who were murdered are calling Senate bill 256 ‘a cruel slap in the face.’
The family of Marie Belcastro is upset with a new Ohio law that took effect Monday that says juveniles who were given sentences of “life in prison,” like Belcastro’s assailant Jacob Larosa, can now be given a chance for parole.
21 News spoke with Brian Kirk, the grandson of Belcastro Friday who said this new law has upended the life of his family.
“They are punishing the survivors and the victim’s family, friends and loved ones!” said Kirk.
Marie Rose Belcastro, 94, was brutally murdered in her Niles home on March 31st 2015.
A then 15 year old Jacob Larosa was found guilty of that murder and sentenced to life plus 31 years in prison without the possibility of parole.
As of Monday that has changed. The new law will allow Larosa to be eligible for parole.
Kirk says the family had closure and relief when the sentence was handed down. Now that closure is gone.
“What if Jacob holds a grudge against me or my family? Maybe we are potential targets down the road. I don’t know because it wasn’t something I had to even consider. Now it’s something I’ll be thinking about every single day,” said Kirk.
Kirk hopes the public will see what has been done and demand the new law be changed whether through a lawsuit or through a referendum.
“To put convicted criminal rights above innocent surviving victims and potential future victims is upside down world insane,” added Kirk.
Murder of Margaret Douglas
Margaret Douglas, 98, was murdered by 17-year-old Gavon Ramsay in her own home in Wadsworth in 2018. SB 256 has reduced Ramsay’s sentence and has significantly harmed Margaret’s family. Read a statement from Margaret’s great-niece here:
The National Organization of Victims of Juvenile Murders also spoke out against the legislation because of concern for the impact it would have on families.
“Victims like Margaret’s family will be forced to relive the crimes at parole hearings,” said the group’s Ohio coordinator.
[Medina County Prosecutor S. Forrest Thompson] said Ramsay’s case may return to the trial court based on the new law.
“Based on legislative decisions, the family now has to relive the facts,” he said. “They were given some small measure of closure knowing he would never get out of prison.”
Patricia Leasure said her family has been through a roller-coaster ride since her aunt’s death, with the sentencing, Ramsay’s appeals and the debate on the new law. If Ramsay is ever eligible for parole, she said the family will oppose his release.
“We believe he is incapable of reform and, if he was back on the street, would be a danger to society and people in his community,” she said.
After her aunt’s death, Leasure, who lives in Michigan near Ann Arbor, said she had an alarm installed in her home and got a concealed carry permit and a gun — all steps she hadn’t fathomed previously. She said her parents, Howard and Cindy Leasure, share this unease.
“Our sense of safety was forever changed,” she said.
CANTON, Ohio — When Cindy Leasure heard the judge sentence her aunt’s killer to life in prison without parole, there was a sense of finality. But three years after Margaret Douglas was strangled to death inside her Wadsworth home, a new Ohio law could pave a way out of prison for Douglas’s convicted killer.
“When he was sentenced it was like okay, we took a criminal off the road, we took him out of society,” said Leasure. “And now you’re looking at here we go. Now he may be back in society at some time.”
Leasure and her husband, who found his aunt’s body stuffed into a living room closet, were in the courtroom for the sentencing.
“It was just a relief to know that this person could not harm anybody else ever again,” said Leasure.
Now she’s angry the new law could pave a path for Ramsay to someday walk free.
“This is not some poor little juvenile that did something and got punished for life,” said Leasure. “You deserve that. You lost rights when you walked into her house uninvited.”
Leasure and her family said they plan to fight for changes that ensure he never walks free again.
“We owe it to Margaret,” said Leasure, “because no one should have to be murdered and go through the horror and torment she went through that night.”
Douglas’ great-niece, Patricia Sacco of Michigan, said Monday that her family plans to take part in formal opposition to SB 256.
“There’s been this real feeling of fear and nervousness since we heard about this bill and especially since it was approved,” she said. “After the bill passed and I looked into it more my other strong feeling is anger in how this bill could allow someone like Gavon Ramsay to slip through the cracks.”
“It puts all of these juvenile criminals into one box whether they were being reckless and shooting a gun that happens to kill someone or if they’re committing these devious, plotting crimes like (Ramsay) did,” Sacco added. “There’s a lot of anger at this point because of this.”
“At this point, our main conversation about this is trying to come up with an action plan,” Sacco said. “As a family, we’re talking about what we can do to bring attention to this and stop (Ramsay) from being released. We feel the lack of awareness of the crimes he committed that night, on the part of people in Columbus, is part of the reason this bill got passed the way it did.”
Family of 98-year-old Wadsworth woman killed, abused by 17-year-old fears new law could eventually set him free
By Jim Nelson| April 16, 2021 at 10:54 PM EDT – Updated April 16 at 10:54 PM
WADSWORTH, Ohio (WOIO) – The family of an elderly Wadsworth woman who was brutally killed by a 17-year-old is now facing the agonizing fear that one day the killer could walk free.
In 2018, Gavon Ramsay was sentenced to life in prison without parole for strangling and sexually abusing the corpse of 98-year-old Margaret Douglas.
“We were devastated to find out how she died, what happened to her,” said Douglas’ nephew Howard Leasure. “It’s been pretty rough.”
Those memories are coming back in the wake of a new Ohio law that went into effect earlier this month.
Senate Bill 256 allows for violent convicted felons to be eligible for parole 25 to 30 years into their life sentences if the crimes were committed when they were under the age of 18.
Leasure’s daughter, Patty Sacco, has become passionate about speaking out against the law.
Her primary concern is that a parole board wouldn’t need to consider the horrific details of the crime but rather the charges alone.
“It takes out of account the fact he broke into her home, that he strangled her, punched her in the face, disrobed her, and sexually assaulted her dead body,” she told 19 News. “My passion is getting the appropriate justice for Margaret. Making sure what she went through that night is acknowledged.”
Under the current law, Ramsay wouldn’t be eligible for parole for more than 20 years.
He would be in his early-to-mid 40′s.
“My fear is that he’ll hurt someone again,” said Howard’s wife, Cindy. “He will murder someone and torment someone again.”
“And all the family members will have to go through what we went through,” Howard added.