Photo: Summit County Sheriff’s Office
AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A self-styled street preacher could face the death penalty on his convictions for murder, kidnapping and robbery in a plot to lure men with Craigslist job offers and rob them.The same jury that convicted Richard Beasley, 53, Tuesday night of killing three men and wounding a fourth must return March 20 to consider arguments from both sides on whether jurors should recommend the death sentence.
Beasley, who uses a wheelchair because of back pain, slumped forward when the verdict was read in a hushed courtroom. His mother sobbed and relatives of the victims hugged and wiped away tears.
“I’m satisfied, I’m satisfied. I didn’t have a doubt,” said Jack Kern, father of Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, who was slain.
Jurors and attorneys for both sides remain under a gag order pending the sentencing and left court without commenting.
Prosecutors, who had asked jurors to use common sense and convict Beasley, labelled him the triggerman in the 2011 plot with a student he mentored. Brogan Rafferty, 16 at the time of the crimes, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Given his age, Rafferty wasn’t eligible for the death penalty.
Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors there was no reasonable doubt that Beasley plotted the killings, and he presented three possible theories for aggravated murder — planning the crimes, doing them with a kidnapping or doing them with a robbery. “He was the mastermind behind this plot,” Baumoel said.
Prosecutors said the victims, all down on their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearances, were lured with offers of farmhand jobs.
One man was killed near Akron, and the others were shot at a southeast Ohio farm during bogus job interviews.
The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Kern.
The survivor, Scott Davis, testified that he heard the click of a gun as he walked in front of Beasley at the reputed job site. Davis, who was shot in an arm and knocked the weapon aside, was hoping to move from South Carolina closer to his family in northeast Ohio.
“I spun around,” testified Davis, who told a harrowing story of running through the woods and hiding for seven hours. “I was worried about bleeding to death.”
Prosecutors said it was a miracle that Davis, who also was the star witness at Rafferty’s trial, survived the encounter with Beasley in Noble County, 60 miles east of Columbus.
“Only by the grace of God did he escape with his life,” Baumoel told the jury.
It was Davis’ escape on Nov. 6, 2011, that led authorities to find Pauley’s body in the same area where Davis was shot. Geiger’s body also was found in Noble County. Kern’s body was found in a shallow grave near an Akron-area shopping mall.
Beasley, who returned to Ohio from Texas in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction, testified that he met with Davis and that Davis was the one who pulled a gun in retaliation for being a police informant on a motorcycle club investigation in Akron.
Beasley’s lawyers had said that investigators targeted him based only on a hunch and that the identity theft and robbery motives prosecutors offered were baseless.
Rafferty had said the crimes were horrible but he didn’t see any chance to stop the killings. He said he feared Beasley would kill him and his family if he tipped off police.
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