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

On April 10, 2021, Sub. S.B. No. 256 went into effect eliminating life-without-parole sentencing for the vast majority of juvenile offenders who committed offenses under 18 years of age and created a new wide ranging parole eligibility provisions that apply regardless of when they committed their offenses and regardless of when they were sentenced. 

The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office fought against these changes, along with the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and other prosecutors across the state. Furthermore, the life without parole sentence imposed on Jacob Larosa was the result of hundreds of hours of hard work by the Niles Police Department, the Ohio Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Identification, Judge Sandra Harwood, Judge W. Wyatt McKay and Assistant Prosecutors Gabe Wildman and Chris Becker. Additionally, Jacob Larosa’s convictions and sentence were upheld by the Eleventh District Court of Appeals.

Despite the fact that Ohio’s legal framework for imposing life without parole sentences on juvenile offenders was perfectly legal under the framework outlined by both the Ohio and United States Supreme Courts, the Ohio legislature eliminated this possibility for many juvenile offenders, even some of the worst offenders. 

The impact of this unnecessary change is that Juvenile murderers such as Jacob Larosa will now be parole eligible and possibly released back into the community in their 30’s and 40’s. 

This law not only changes and overrides Ohio’s historical, proper and warranted sentencing scheme giving Ohio Common Pleas judges wide discretion in decision-making for the most serious juvenile offenders, but, because of its retroactivity, nullifies the hard work and judgments of Judges throughout the State who have previously, in their discretion and after careful 

consideration of the facts and background of juvenile offenders such as Larosa, determined that life without parole sentences were necessary to protect the public from these offenders. 

As Judge McKay wrote in his sentencing judgment entry finding a life without parole sentence was warranted for Larosa for his crimes which resulted in the death of Marie Belcastro, “Defendant murdered a frail 94 year old woman who was known to be kind to him. There was no known motive for the crime. Defendant brutally beat the victim relatedly with a Mag flashlight.  The damage inflicted on the victim was so severe that her brain was visible through the holes in her skull, and shards of her hearing aid were strewn throughout the area through which she was assaulted and dragged.” The Eleventh Appellate District agreed and concluded that “the trial court carefully and thoroughly considered the *** factors for juvenile sentencing in detail, along with all the other evidence and circumstances, before issuing a sentence.”  

In our opinion, Jacob Larosa does not deserve a lighter sentence as given by the retroactive legislation given here. This office will continue to fight for victims and protect the community by ensuring that violent criminals, including Jacob Larosa, are incarcerated for as long as possible as the legislature provides in their laws. This office will continue to vigorously oppose Jacob Larosa’s release and take all necessary steps, including any potential appeals if warranted, to ensure Jacob Larosa serves the maximum sentence permissible. 

Dennis Watkins

Prosecuting Attorney 

Trumbull County, Ohio