Verdict reached in Ohio Craigslist killings case

Thomas J. Sheeran (AP)

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A jury on Tuesday reached a verdict in the murder case against an ex-convict charged in the deaths of three men lured with Craigslist job offers.

The trial judge in Akron sent word to all parties involved in the case against Richard Beasley to convene in her courtroom. It was unclear when the verdict would be read.

Earlier, jurors deliberated for a second day in the case. If Beasley is convicted of aggravated murder, the jury would return later to consider whether to recommend the death penalty.

Beasley’s 18-year-old co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without chance of parole. Rafferty was under 18 at the time of the crimes and was ineligible for the death penalty.

The jury must consider two weeks of testimony and decide 26 counts including aggravated murder, attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery and possession of a weapon by an ex-convict.

Two men from Ohio and one from Norfolk, Va., were slain. A man from South Carolina was shot but survived.

There are nine aggravated murder counts, three for each victim and each offering a different theory: that the murder was planned or was done while committing a kidnapping or robbery.

Each aggravated murder count includes specifications that would toughen the possible sentence to death.

The jury received 80 verdict forms detailing each count and specification and each must be signed by each member of the unanimous jury. A trial judge typically will make sure the forms are filled out properly before reading the verdict.

Prosecutors took more than 300 items of evidence to court from last year’s trial of Rafferty. The items included autopsy photos, surveillance video, DNA analysis and bullets.

Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel urged jurors in a closing statement on Monday to use common sense and follow the “straight line” of truth and convict Beasley.

One of Beasley’s defense attorneys, James Burdon, asked jurors to put aside any pressure they may feel to convict Beasley because of the notoriety of the case and instead decide on the evidence.

Beasley, who returned to Ohio from Texas in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction, denied involvement in the 2011 attacks and said that the lone survivor was sent to kill him in retaliation for being a police snitch in a motorcycle gang investigation in Akron.

He said investigators targeted him based only on a hunch.

Prosecutors said Beasley and Brogan used the job postings as bait in a robbery plot aimed at down-on-their-luck victims with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance. The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon.

Rafferty has 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 relatives if he tipped off police.