To see more about the crimes Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty committed, click here to buy the Beacon Journal eBook The Craigslist Killings.
A Summit County judge delayed imposing a sentencing order Tuesday in what was expected to be the end of Richard James Beasley’s capital murder trial for plotting the murders of three men and attempting to kill a fourth.
Beasley, 53, faces the death penalty in the so-called Craigslist case after a jury convicted him of the crimes this month.
Common Pleas Judge Lynne S. Callahan was to deliver her sentence after hearing from affected family members of the victims at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday.
The public gallery in her courtroom was nearly full as the time approached.
Instead, Callahan rescheduled the proceedings for 10 a.m. April 4, saying in brief remarks from the bench that “sometimes things happen that are unexpected” and, therefore, she was granting a continuance motion by defense attorney Larry Whitney.
Callahan declined to answer questions from reporters as she left the bench. Her bailiff said she would have no further comment about why sentencing was delayed.
Outside court, Whitney said lead defense counsel Jim Burdon was “indisposed” and unavailable to attend.
Ohio law requires that two defense attorneys be present during all proceedings in a death-penalty case.
Sources in the courthouse said Burdon was dealing with a medical issue before the scheduled start of sentencing and could not attend.
“He’ll be fine,” a source said later Tuesday.
Some 45 minutes after the scheduled start, family members and friends of the victims were asked to leave Callahan’s courtroom momentarily. They were escorted down the hall to the spacious ceremonial courtroom in the new courthouse annex, where Callahan spoke to them behind closed doors for about 15 minutes.
None of the family members would discuss what was said during that meeting.
When Callahan addressed the court from the bench at 2:40 p.m., she said the new sentencing date was agreeable to all who had planned to make statements about the case.
At a hearing last week, Whitney had implored jurors to spare Beasley’s life and consider lesser penalties, such as life in prison with no parole, or parole eligibility after 25 or 30 years.
Jurors, however, recommended death after only two hours of deliberations.
The same jury had convicted Beasley this month in the shooting deaths of Ralph Geiger, David Pauley and Timothy Kern.
Beasley also was convicted of attempting to kill Scott Davis.
All four men, prosecutors told the jury, had been lured by a bogus job offer as caretaker of a vast, isolated property in Noble County. The ad, which Beasley wrote, first appeared on Craigslist, according to trial testimony, on Oct. 6, 2011.
Prosecutors said Beasley targeted down-on-their-luck men, with few family ties, who were hoping to land their dream job.
Geiger, 56, of Akron, was killed Aug. 9, 2011. His body was found in Noble County in November, the same day the body of Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found in a wooded area near the former Rolling Acres mall in southwest Akron.
Authorities believe Kern was killed Nov. 13, and Pauley, 51, of Virginia, on Oct. 23.
The scheme came to the attention of law enforcement when Davis, 50, a Stark County native living in South Carolina, was shot Nov. 6 while touring the property. He escaped and alerted Noble County sheriff’s investigators.
Beasley’s co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, a former Stow-Munroe Falls High School student, was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder last year. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Because he was 16 at the time of the crimes, he could not receive the death penalty.
In next month’s sentencing order for Beasley, Callahan can follow the jury’s recommendation, or decide against the death penalty and give him life in prison.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or firstname.lastname@example.org.