To see more about the crimes Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty committed, click here to buy the Beacon Journal eBook The Craigslist Killings.
There was one person Brogan Rafferty said he could lean on for anything.
That man was Richard Beasley.
Cast aside by his drug-addicted mother, left to fend for himself as a kindergartner by his always-at-work father, Beasley provided Rafferty an eager ear and guidance.
Rafferty said he never envisioned that at age 16 he would become Beasley’s co-defendant in a trio of execution-style murders.
On Tuesday, Rafferty took the witness stand in Summit County Common Pleas Court, trying to convince jurors he, too, was a victim of Beasley and not the willing assistant that prosecutors portray.
Rafferty faces a lifelong sentence, if convicted. Testimony is expected to end today, and jurors could begin deliberations Thursday outside the courtroom of Judge Lynne Callahan.
Under two hours of questioning from his attorney, John Alexander, Rafferty, a former Stow-Munroe Falls High School student, recounted his childhood and how he came to be close friends with the older Beasley.
During about an hour of cross-examination by Assistant Ohio Attorney General Paul Scarsella, he tried to explain how he remained silent about the killings for four months, even when questioned by law enforcement.
From the time he was about 10, Rafferty said, Beasley was there for him. It didn’t matter that Beasley was an ex-con. He was Rafferty’s father’s friend, and the Akron man had everyone convinced he had changed his ways.
Beasley attended The Chapel and opened a halfway house for drug-addicted prostitutes. He could quote the Bible with the best of ministers.
To Rafferty, Beasley was “basically a brother with a different last name ... a spiritual mentor, a counselor of sorts,” Rafferty recalled Tuesday.
Rafferty said he couldn’t talk about God with his father, “but I could go to Rich.” He could also go to him with “any problems I was having.”
That help included weekly church services and talks about life’s lessons. It also included Beasley driving the streets of Akron looking for Rafferty’s mother, who on occasion would disappear in her search for crack cocaine. Rafferty said that although he rarely spent time with his mother and he doesn’t remember being with her often before he turned 10, he loved her and always worried about her safety when she was on the streets.
“[Beasley] was the one person I could go to. He was the only one I could tell anything,” Rafferty testified.
“I thought he was a great guy. He was like that father I never had.”
Asked if that relationship ever changed, Rafferty quickly said it did.
“Absolutely. That was the morning he murdered a man in front of me. I didn’t think he was the same guy.”
Rafferty said he was left in a surreal world Aug. 9, 2011, when out of nowhere Beasley, now 53, put a gun to the back of Ralph Geiger’s head and pulled the trigger during a visit to a rural property in Noble County.
“That split second, I didn’t think it was real,” Rafferty told jurors. “It was like I was slipping into a dream or something like that ... I felt like I had ice in my veins.”
He thought the three were in Noble County to show Geiger, 56, a farm where the homeless Akron man would work. Rafferty said he later learned Beasley intended all along to kill Geiger to assume his identity. Beasley was on the lam from police at the time as a suspect in an Akron prostitution ring from his halfway house.
After that first killing, Beasley threatened to harm the teen’s mother or sister if he said a word about the killing. Those threats lasted through four months, two more killings and an attempt on another man’s life.
Rafferty said he didn’t trust police, and he feared going to his father or church friends, believing Beasley would somehow kill his family. He said he had just witnessed Beasley callously kill an innocent man and believed him capable of killing anyone.
“There was nobody for me to run to,” Rafferty said.
He said he had to “go with it or die. I didn’t have a choice.”
So when Beasley called on him in October to drive to see another man in Noble County, Rafferty went along. He said he dug a grave the night before the visit, unsure if the ground was for him or the next victim. It turned out the grave was for David Pauley, 51, a Virginia man who answered a Craigslist ad. Prosecutors say Beasley created the ad as a lure for his victims.
The threats continued through Nov. 6, when Rafferty and Beasley went to Noble County to meet Scott Davis, 48, who traveled from South Carolina to take a nonexistent job. At one point, near where Pauley was buried, Beasley followed Davis out of Rafferty’s car.
“I hated to be part of it,” Rafferty said. “I wanted to be out of it.”
During the walk, Beasley’s gun jammed, and Davis escaped with an injured arm. That frustrated Beasley, Rafferty recalled.
“I was happy he got away,” the teen said of Davis.
During the four months between the first and last killing, Rafferty said, he often considered suicide. At one point, he aimed a gun at his own head. He felt that if he didn’t kill himself, Beasley would.
The last killing happened in November, when Beasley and Rafferty drove Timothy Kern, 47, to a remote area off Romig Road.
Scarsella pointed out during his cross-examination at least four interviews Rafferty gave to police investigating the case. In the first three, he never mentioned Kern, Geiger nor the alleged threats from Beasley. The prosecutor also pointed out a number of occasions when Rafferty could have fled or defended himself with one of the firearms he obtained through the killings.
Rafferty held firm in his contention that either he or his family would be killed if he went to police.
“I gave myself until January, tops,” he said. “I was there to do what Beasley told me to do until my time was up.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or email@example.com.