Joshua Gurto

JEFFERSON — A Conneaut man indicted by the Ashtabula County grand jury on charges he raped and murdered a 13-month-old girl early last month could face the death penalty on two counts, according to Ashtabula County Prosecutor Nicholas Iarocci.

Gurto, 37, was secretly and directly indicted by the Ashtabula County grand jury on Tuesday, according to a statement Iarocci issued Thursday morning.

He faces eight charges: aggravated murder (two counts) and murder (three counts), both unclassified felony offenses; rape (first-degree felony); felonious assault (first-degree felony) and domestic violence (first-degree misdemeanor).

In the statement, Iarocci said he requested the grand jury indict Gurto on two separate death penalty specifications on the aggravated murder charges.

Gurto faces charges stemming from the Oct. 7 death of Sereniti Jazzlynn-Sky Blankenship-Sutley, the daughter of Gurto's girlfriend. He is not the child's father, authorities have said. The girl died from blunt trauma to her head and trunk, according to the Ashtabula County coroner's office.

Gurto was formally charged with murder and rape on Oct. 13 by Conneaut Law Director Kyle Smith. He fled the area, hitchhiking and camping in woods until captured without incident on Oct. 27 in Franklin Park Borough, Pennsylvania. Held the past two weeks at Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh, Gurto was returned to the area Thursday morning by Ashtabula County sheriff's deputies, Iarocci said in the statement.

Arrangements will be made to keep Gurto away from other inmates during his incarceration in the county jail, Sheriff William Johnson said last week.

"He will be separated," Johnson said at the time.

Gurto will be arraigned Nov. 17 before Ashtabula County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas Harris, Iarocci said.

Plenty of agencies and individuals deserve credit for their role in the case, Iarocci said in the statement.

"I would like to express our sincere appreciation to the Conneaut Police Department, Ohio Attorney General's Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation, U.S. Marshal's Service, the Conneaut law director's office and the Ashtabula County Sheriff's Department for their work on this very difficult case," he said.

"I also wish to offer our heartfelt thanks, on behalf of Ashtabula County, to our law enforcement partners and friends in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, specifically the Franklin Park Borough Police Department, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office, Allegheny County District Attorney's Office and the Allegheny County Jail for their cooperation in ensuring Mr. Gurto remain incarcerated during the Ohio investigation and indictment process."