"Craigslist Murder Case": Prosecutors present evidence against Richard Beasley

The Ohio teen charged in a series of murders of men who answered an ad on Craigslist will find out if he will be tried as an adult on Dec. 15. Brogan Rafferty, 16, faces juvenile charges of aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated murder, attempted murder and complicity to attempted murder in the death of one man and the shooting of another.
File, AP Photo/Summit County Sheriff Department
Richard Beasley
File, AP Photo/Summit County Sheriff Department

(CBS/AP) AKRON, Ohio - A man who says he was wounded by gunfire but escaped testified Tuesday as prosecutors began trying to show that robbery and identity theft were the motives behind attacks that left three men in Ohio dead. All four of the alleged targets were lured by phony job offers on Craigslist.

Scott Davis stepped down from the witness stand Tuesday and stood in front of alleged triggerman Richard Beasley to identify him as the attacker. Davis also said he remembered a tattoo on Beasley's arm.

Beasley, 53, has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other charges in the attacks two years ago. His trial began Monday in an Akron courtroom.

"He wanted a new identity and he got it," prosecutor Emily Pelphrey told jurors Monday in an opening statement as she outlined the evidence against Beasley, an ex-convict.

His attorney, James Burdon, said there isn't enough evidence to convict Beasley. He said the defense would try to show that the survivor attacked Beasley first, not the other way around.

In what appeared to be the first such mention in the case, Burdon also said the defense would try to show that Beasley had posted the Craigslist ads at the behest of a man with a violent criminal history. He didn't detail the circumstances.

Beasley could face the death penalty if convicted.

In a 40-minute opening statement Monday, Pelphrey showed jurors photos of the victims and, without identifying the teen, a photo of Beasley hugging his co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, 18.

Rafferty, who thought of Beasley as a mentor and friend, was convicted last year and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Rafferty, too young at the time of the crimes to be eligible for the death penalty, has agreed to testify against Beasley. It was unclear whether his testimony could lead to a sentence reduction.

At his sentencing, Rafferty said the crimes were horrible but he didn't see any chance to stop the killings. Rafferty said he feared Beasley would kill him and his family members if he tipped off police.

If Beasley is convicted of aggravated murder, the same jury would hear evidence on whether to recommend that the judge impose the death sentence. Any sentencing proceeding likely would begin April 8, the judge said.

Prosecutors say the victims, all down on their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance, were lured with phony offers of farmhand jobs in southeast Ohio through Craigslist ads. The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon.

The lone survivor, Davis, was shot in the arm and fled into the woods. Davis, of South Carolina, was looking to move closer to his family in the Canton area.

He fled into the woods in Noble County after hearing the click of a handgun, getting shot in the arm, and pushing the weapon aside.

Burdon signaled that the defense would challenge the prosecution's contention that Davis was attacked first by Beasley while walking at the farm and discussing a $300-a-week job. "We think the evidence will show the opposite," Burdon said.

Complete coverage of the Craigslist Murder Case on Crimesider