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Authorities on Saturday identified an Akron man as the third homicide victim connected to the Craigslist shooting case.
Ralph H. Geiger, 56, died of a gunshot wound to the head. His body was found Nov. 25 in Noble County.
“Recent events of an ongoing investigation led authorities to Mr. Geiger’s grave site,” Noble County Sheriff Stephen Hannum said in a news release.
That investigation focuses on Richard Beasley, a 52-year-old Akron man suspected of placing a bogus Internet help-wanted ad that lured victims to rural Noble County.
Brogan Rafferty, 16, is charged with aggravated murder and attempted murder. He is accused of helping Beasley in two shootings — a fatal attack on David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, and the Nov. 6 wounding of Scott Davis, 48, formerly of Canton.
Geiger’s body was found on the same day authorities recovered the body of Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon. Kern, who had been shot multiple times, was found in a wooded area near the former Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.
Members of Geiger’s family either declined to comment or could not be reached Saturday afternoon.
Authorities say Geiger lived late last year in a duplex on Cluster Avenue in Akron before he was evicted for failing to pay his rent. Earlier in 2010, he lived in an apartment in the Portage Lakes area of Coventry Township before being evicted for the same reason.
Michael Schafer of Tallmadge has known Geiger for about 40 years, since their days at East High School. Over time, they have worked together and shared holidays together with family. Geiger left for California in the mid-’70s and helped his father run an antique store. In the late ’90s, he returned to Ohio.
“He was probably the most loyal friend I had,” Schafer said.
Schafer said that he last spoke to his friend sometime in August. Geiger was eager to take a job working on a farm in the Dover-New Philadelphia area.
“He was a hard worker. He didn’t ask for anything,” Schafer said. “He was a good guy, a gentleman.”
It is unclear if the Craigslist ruse, which authorities initially said appeared to begin in early October, was used to lure Geiger in August.
But Schafer said he never spoke to Geiger after he left for the farm job. Calls to Geiger’s cell phone in mid-September first went immediately to voice mail. Follow up calls said the number was disconnected. Later calls showed Geiger’s number was assigned to a new cell-phone company user.
A gag order prevents law enforcement from discussing the case. But Schafer said he believes the Dover-New Philadelphia farm job is connected to the Craigslist ad for the Noble County listing.
“I think it’s the exact same thing, just a different mode of operation,’’ Schafer said. ‘‘I’m just thinking this is a lot bigger than what’s being put out there.’’
Linda Siegenthaler, who lived next to Geiger in the Cluster Avenue duplex until the holidays in late 2010, said one of his daughters came to her house last week, searching for her father. Geiger was divorced and had two daughters.
“She was holding back the tears,” Siegenthaler said. “She was asking if we had seen her father and she was hoping that wasn’t him in Noble County. ”
Siegenthaler said Geiger was an outgoing neighbor. She recalled summer nights sitting outside with her husband Jerry and the chair that broke under Geiger that left everyone laughing.
She also remembered Geiger’s dog Blacky and the six pups delivered in 2010.
Months in shelter
Geiger lived in the Haven of Rest shelter in Akron for much of 2011. He moved in the first week of February and left Aug. 8. He told workers he was taking a job on a farm in Dover.
Diane Fisher, who owns the Cluster Avenue house, said Geiger was a “really nice guy” who described himself as a self-employed handyman.
“He said he could do just about anything,” she said.
She said Geiger was given assistance by a local social service that paid his security deposit and first month’s rent. He appeared to have little income, and his belongings were held in a storage unit.
She said he and his dog moved out in late fall last year to live with someone else after she filed for an eviction for nonpayment.
Beasley has not been charged with any crimes related to the Craigslist shootings and has denied through his attorney any involvement. He is said to be upset at the apparent cooperation of Rafferty, whom he had mentored for several years.
Beasley is being held without bond at the Summit County Jail on unrelated drug-trafficking and prostitution charges.
Authorities contend that while Beasley was on the lam after failing to appear in court following his release from jail in July, he concocted the Craigslist ad. The help-wanted posting sought someone to oversee a 688-acre ranch in Noble County.
The victims have all been unmarried middle-aged white men with little money.
Authorities believe Beasley and Rafferty attacked three of the victims near the supposed ranch site in rural Stock Township. Two wound up buried in shallow graves. Davis survived being shot in the elbow on Nov. 6 and hiding on the property for seven hours.
A follow-up investigation led authorities to Pauley’s body and eventually — through computer forensic work — to Beasley and Rafferty.
After the arrest of Beasley and Rafferty, the bodies of Geiger and Kern were recovered.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.