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Death penalty sought against accused Craigslist suspect

By Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal –

AKRON, Ohio — Summit County prosecutors on Friday unveiled a 28-count capital murder indictment against Richard Beasley, the prime suspect in the Craigslist’s help-wanted ad case.

The announcement came in Akron during a joint press conference with prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Beasley, 52, is facing multiple aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery charges in connection with last year’s shooting deaths of three men who answered the Internet help-wanted ad.

Attempted murder charges were filed in the case of a former Canton, Ohio, man who survived being shot while on a farm in rural Noble County in November.

The indictments carry specifications that allow jurors to consider a possible death sentence, if Beasley is convicted. There are also specifications that allege Beasley was a fugitive at the time of the killing based on warrants that existed at the time of the slayings from Summit County and Texas.

Walsh said the death penalty is appropriate because the killings represent “the worst of the worst” criminal conduct.

She and DeWine declined to comment about Beasley’s purported accomplice, 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty. The Stow-Munroe Falls student in being held on complicity charges.

Noble County Prosecutor Clifford Sickler has said Rafferty is cooperating with investigators with the intention of accepting a plea offer in which he would receive a lighter sentence in exchange for his testimony against Beasley.

Rafferty’s case is pending in Noble County, where a grand jury session scheduled for Wednesday was abruptly canceled. Sickler has not returned multiple calls for information on the case.

Noble County Judge John W. Nau placed a gag order on the case shortly after the crimes were discovered. Nau has also issued an order that allows prosecutors to try Rafferty as an adult.

The Craigslist ads appeared as early as August, when prosecutors say Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, responded. Geiger’s body was found in Noble County in November, the same day that the body of Timothy Kerns, 47, of Massillon, was found in a wooded area near the Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.

The bogus ad sought a worker to oversee an expansive ranch for $300 a week and the use of a two-bedroom trailer. Beasley is accused of conducting the interviews and ultimately robbing and killing the men and injuring another.

Prosecutors say Geiger was likely the first victim. Prosecutors believed he was killed around Aug. 9.

Scott Davis, 48, a former Canton man living in South Carolina, was shot Nov. 6 while touring the bogus property with two men. His escape led authorities to find the body of David Pauley, 51, of Virginia.

After Rafferty’s arrest, police found the bodies of Kerns and Geiger.

Beasley, who claimed to be a reformed Christian and mentored Rafferty for several years, is also charged in an unrelated prostitution case. Police say he used a home in Akron as a portal for prostitution.

After his arrest last year in the prostitution case, he was sought by Texas authorities for a parole violation stemming from a prior burglary case. He was released on bond later in the summer, prior to the first slaying in the Craigslist case.

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