CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Former New York City police officer James LaRossa was stabbed repeatedly in the back last April. His estranged wife, Carole LaRossa, was charged with first-degree murder – a crime punishable by life in prison or death.
Now, the family of the slain officer is attacking Mecklenburg prosecutors for offering a deal that would allow Carole LaRossa, 48, to plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter – a crime that carries a punishment range of three to 17 years in prison.
“We are desperately trying to draw attention to this injustice,” Lauren Cox, the victim’s niece, wrote in an email to the Observer. “My uncle’s family and friends feel … that we have been let down by the state of North Carolina. Their legal system has failed us.”
Cox said prosecutors informed her family on Friday about the voluntary manslaughter plea offer.
Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray told the Observer Tuesday that he and his prosecutors are ethically prohibited from discussing pending cases.
“It’s an ongoing case,” Murray said. “I can’t say a thing about it. I can’t talk about a pending case.”
James LaRossa, 51, was stabbed to death at his Rea Road apartment in south Charlotte. A prosecutor said during a court hearing in May that the former police officer was stabbed 19 times by his estranged wife.
History of problems
Defense attorney David Rudolf said there was a history of domestic violence between the couple – Carole LaRossa also had stab wounds when police arrived, though her injuries were not life-threatening.
Carole LaRossa was out of jail on $250,000 bond at the time of the hearing.
In August 2010, Carole LaRossa made a domestic violence complaint against her husband in Union County. The complaint was voluntarily dismissed, records show, and she was granted a temporary restraining order against him.
Carole LaRossa’s attorneys could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Cox on Tuesday described her family as “outraged, devastated and heartbroken” by the prosecutors’ decision to offer the plea bargain.
“We believe in justice and the law,” she told the Observer. “We put our faith in the DA’s office and the police department. We felt they would do what’s right. This is a slap in the face.”
In her email to the Observer, Cox wrote that James LaRossa’s family had spent the weekend “reaching out” to congressmen, senators, the governor and the mayor of Charlotte to tell them about the case.
“We have stayed silent and sat back respectfully and allowed them to work on this case since April 10, 2012,” she wrote. “We will no longer sit back quietly.”
“Do you think if the tables were turned and Carole had been the one stabbed to death in her home that night, that my uncle would have gotten out on bond? That my uncle would have been allowed to keep custody of their minor daughter? Probably not.”
Cox pointed out that her uncle was disabled.
“He was forced to retire from the NYPD after a spine injury that caused him to suffer through multiple back and neck surgeries,” she wrote. “He had steel rods put in his spine, but suffered physically every single day of his life. The man had difficulties tying his shoes – how could he have the physical strength to defend himself in a knife attack.”