Brogan Rafferty confessed to the Craigslist killings, aiding Richard Beasley in the murder of three men and the attempted murder of a fourth. Rafferty helped the police locate two of the bodies. On two occasions, he appeared on the verge of reaching a plea bargain, life in prison with parole possible after 26 years, and then 30 years.
Yet, in the end, Judge Lynne Callahan of the Summit County Common Pleas Court followed the guilty verdict of the jury with a sentence of life in prison with no possibility of parole. The judge went beyond the recommendation of the prosecution for parole in 72 years, though either way the 17-year-old Rafferty surely would die in prison.
Callahan reasoned carefully in setting the sentence a week ago. The judge wasn’t persuaded that Rafferty joined the killing because he feared the older Beasley, who had been something of a mentor to the young man. She found Rafferty “cold, calculated and methodical” in the crime, using the ad service to lure the victims.
County prosecutors hinted at why they balked at a plea bargain under discussion between the verdict and the sentencing. Jonathan Baumoel noted in court that Rafferty’s cooperation has “limits.”
Still, something remains unsettling about the outcome. As cold-blooded as the killings were, Rafferty is a juvenile, his youth carrying with it the opening, however slight, of becoming something better. The possibility of parole in three decades isn’t a ticket out of prison. It is a measure of the person he has become against the crime he committed. That seems a more fitting ending, the parole board with the authority to say no.