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Teen on trial in Craigslist killings ‘never had a break in his life’

By Phil Trexler, Akron Beacon Journal –

AKRON, Ohio — He was conceived only so his mother, at least for the nine-month pregnancy, would abstain from smoking crack cocaine.

But within four weeks of his birth, his mother left him to resume her crack habit, seeing the boy only sparingly over the next several years. On one such visit, his sixth birthday on Christmas Eve, she took him to a store, dropped him off and drove away, disappearing into drugs for two days.

As a kindergartner in Stow, Ohio, the boy would rise and get dressed on his own, eat breakfast alone, walk to the school bus by himself and come home, again, alone. He lived with his father, but dad worked long hours as a machinist and rarely was around.

This routine went on for years.

And despite the solitude, he never complained or shed a tear in front of anyone, even to his best friend or to his mentor, “Chaplain Rich.”

By 16, Brogan Rafferty was handed a triple-murder indictment, accused of conspiring with Chaplain Rich, aka Richard Beasley, in the so-called Craigslist killings. For many who knew him, it marked a tragic ending to an already disturbing childhood.

“Brogan was a kid who never had a break in his life,” Lakeview Intermediate School counselor Susan Deitrick testified Monday.

As Rafferty’s trial nears an end this week, his defense attorneys in Summit County Common Pleas Court are trying to show that the teenager, like so many adults, was duped by Beasley and his man-of-God claims.

Rafferty could take the stand in his own defense when testimony resumes Tuesday. Closing arguments and jury deliberations would follow.

Prosecutors contend Rafferty was a willing participant in the murderous Craigslist plot. The teen faces a life-long prison sentence, if convicted, of murder, kidnapping, robbery and other charges.

Defense attorneys say Rafferty was under Beasley’s control during the late summer of 2011, witnessed the killings in Akron and rural Noble County and even dug the graves. They say the teen didn’t shoot any of the men and was fearful that Beasley would kill him or his family if he told authorities.

So, instead, Rafferty carried the visions of murder in his head, sharing them with no one until he was arrested in November 2011. Friends and family testified that they noticed a difference in the teen’s normal happy-go-lucky behavior after August 2011, when he witnessed the first execution-style slaying in southern Ohio.

His best friend, Kaleb Moore, now a Stow-Munroe Falls High senior, said Rafferty seemed “on edge,” “agitated and short.” But Rafferty wasn’t the type to seek out help or show any emotion, he said.

“It definitely seemed like something was bothering him,” Moore told jurors. “I asked him about it, and he said he was OK.”

A lot of folks, including his father, Michael Rafferty, asked what was bothering Brogan that fall season. He didn’t say a word.

Those who knew Rafferty said that despite a crack-addicted, absentee mother and a father who worked long hours, he was a kind, shy and quiet kid, always polite and never in trouble with the law.

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He spent his toddler years during the day with his paternal grandmother. When kindergarten started and his father left for work, he was on his own. He basically raised himself in his father’s home in Stow, his grade school counselor said.

“You could see when a child is bleeding inside,” Deitrick told jurors. “It was eating him up, but he didn’t dare let his guard down.”

Crying or showing any emotion was frowned upon in the Rafferty home.

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Michael Rafferty testified about Brogan’s life and his birth. He divorced Brogan’s mother before his son’s first birthday due to her on-going crack addiction. He said her pregnancy with Brogan was her chance to be sober, but her drug addiction soon returned.

The mother and son saw each other only sporadically over the years.

Enter Richard Beasley, Michael Rafferty’s longtime friend and an ex-con.

Beasley’s frequent visits to the Rafferty home after his release from prison in the late 1990s eventually turned into a mentor, “uncle” type of relationship when Brogan was 6 or 7 years old.

Beasley, 53, who claimed to be born again and would fortify his persona with a quick Bible quote, would take Brogan to church every Sunday at The Chapel in Akron, Michael Rafferty said.

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Counting church services, breakfast and Bible study, Brogan and Beasley spent six hours together every Sunday for several years. Other visits soon followed. The man and boy became close.

“As a parent, you just don’t know,” Michael Rafferty testified. “Just look at what happened.”

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Behind that religious face, witnesses said, Beasley was con man.

One woman, a former drug addict and prostitute, testified Monday that Beasley picked her up on the street one night, offered God to her, then placed her in his own halfway house for women in Akron. He even went to an Akron Municipal Court judge and vouched for the prostitute as a recovering addict and Christian.

Beasley convinced the judge to release her after a subsequent arrest. He did the same work on other judges for other prostitutes and drug addicts.

Soon, however, Beasley was having sex with the woman he had helped, she told jurors. He supplied her with crack and used the Internet to sell her as a hooker. The scheme got Beasley arrested on prostitution charges in 2010 and spurred his need for a new identity in order to avoid a return to prison.

The new identity for Beasley, according to Brogan Rafferty’s statement to police, was the initial motive in the Craigslist scheme. Prosecutors say Beasley created a bogus help-wanted ad seeking a handyman for a nonexistent property in Noble County. Three job applicants were killed; a fourth was wounded.

Ralph Geiger, 56, a homeless man in Akron, in August 2011 was the first homicide victim. Two other slayings followed: David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, in October, and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, in November. A fourth man, Scott Davis, 48, of South Carolina and formerly of Canton, was injured.

Beasley is set to go on trial in January. He has pleaded not guilty.

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