Prosecutors on Friday rested their case against Brogan Rafferty, the Stow teen accused of conspiring with his mentor in the Craigslist killings of three men.
The case now falls in the lap of defense attorneys, who are expected to try and convince jurors that Rafferty acted not with malice, but out of fear of his older friend and co-defendant, Richard Beasley.
Rafferty’s three attorneys, as well as anyone associated with the case, are banned by Summit County Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan from talking to the media during the trial.
But according to court records, Rafferty was assigned a psychiatrist, who interviewed him in jail. When testimony resumes Monday, the doctor is expected to tell jurors that the teen was genuinely afraid of Beasley and acted under duress while the murders unfolded over three months last year.
Rafferty’s family members may also testify about the boy’s relationship with the 53-year-old Beasley. It is unclear if Rafferty will testify.
The state’s case ended Friday with autopsy testimony from Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler and testimony about Rafferty’s demeanor from the assistant principal from Stow-Munroe Falls High School, where Rafferty was a junior until his arrest a year ago.
During a week of eyewitness and forensic testimony, prosecutors appear to have successfully connected the teen to Beasley and the Akron man’s alleged plot to lure his victims to their deaths through the Internet help-wanted ad.
Beasley has pleaded not guilty and denies any involvement in the killings.
In Rafferty’s own words, recorded during questioning by Noble County sheriff’s investigators and the FBI and played to jurors Thursday, the plot deteriorated from a scheme to kill for a new identity to a callous, four-bullet slaying that Beasley knew would reap only a beat-up Buick.
There’s no question Rafferty, now 17, was there every time a victim was shot. He admitted so during the investigation, but denied ever pulling a trigger. He also admitted that a .22-caliber pistol found in his bedroom, a gift from Beasley, was used in one killing. In addition, he said a sawed-off shotgun and a TV found in his home and car were taken from other victims.
His taped statement was taken shortly after his arrest last November and, according to those familiar with the negotiations, was given with his former court-appointed attorney’s consent as a prelude to a plea deal.
The deal, which called for a life sentence with parole possible after 26 years, fell apart before Rafferty’s case was moved from Noble to Summit County.
No other deals were discussed prior to the start of his trial. He now faces a potentially far greater sentence, if convicted of three aggravated murders, along with attempted murder, kidnapping and robbery.
The court system, in accordance with Ohio law, is treating Rafferty the same as if he shot each of the four victims. He faces a potential life sentence with a maximum parole eligibility extended beyond his life expectancy.
Prosecutors say the four victims all responded to a Craigslist help-wanted ad in 2011. The listing promised the use of property in rural Noble County and a trailer, plus a $300 weekly salary to oversee the land.
Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, was the first to die. His body was found in Noble County in November, the same day the body of Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found in a wooded area near Rolling Acres Mall in southwest Akron. Prosecutors believe Geiger was killed around Aug. 9, 2011.
The scheme did not come to the attention of law enforcement until Scott Davis, 48, formerly of South Carolina, was shot Nov. 6 while touring the property with two men believed to be Beasley and Rafferty. His escape led authorities to the body of David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, who was buried on the same property. Authorities believe Kern was killed Nov. 13 and Pauley on Oct. 23. Rafferty’s defense attorneys are trying to minimize the teen’s involvement and therefore his potential prison term.
In his taped statement, he told investigators at the end of their two-hour interview, that he didn’t know the first killing was going to take place. And after the killing of the first victim, Ralph Geiger of Akron, Rafferty said Beasley “watched me like a hawk” and inferred he would harm the teen’s family, if he contacted police.
Rafferty’s divorced parents, Yvette and Michael, said in previous interviews with the media that they believe Beasley manipulated their son in what was supposed to be a Christian-based friendship.
Yvette Rafferty also said she believes her son would have been killed himself had he turned on Beasley.
“A detective told me if Rich thought Brogan said anything or did anything against Rich, I wouldn’t have a son,” she said last November.
Church members and people who knew Beasley agree that he was a dangerous man who manipulated more than just the teen. He also appeared in local courts claiming to be a reverend and vouching for some defendants, mostly drug users or prostitutes.
His work getting help for prostitutes also got him indicted. He is accused of operating a prostitution ring out of his Akron home. That case is pending. Beasley is set to go on trial for the Craigslist killings in January.
The prostitution case also appears to be the impetus to the killings. Rafferty said Beasley was intent of taking on a new identity to avoid a return to prison. Beasley had a total of 14 years in prison for burglaries and firearm convictions in the 1980s and 1990s.
Geiger, who was homeless for a time in 2011, was picked by Beasley because of his similar age and facial features and short family ties. The plot didn’t appear to work, Rafferty told investigators, and soon the Craigslist ad evolved into a scheme for Beasley to lure men to the “farm hand” job in order to kill them and steal their property.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.