By eliminating Scott Davis, Richard Beasley thought he would be set financially for the winter and wouldn’t have to kill again until spring.
Davis was viewed as a cash bounty, at least a $30,000 kill, according to Beasley’s co-defendant, 17-year-old Brogan Rafferty.
The Stow-Munroe Falls High School junior laid out the scheme — and the slayings of three other men — during a two-hour interview with detectives recorded last November, not long after Davis escaped with a bullet-riddled elbow.
Rafferty’s own words, which provide precise details, maps, poems and drawings, represent the strongest evidence yet brought out this week in the teen’s murder trial being held in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
It was played for jurors Thursday, along with two other, less incriminating interviews.
In his final interview, given after his arrest Nov. 16 when it appeared he was poised to accept a plea deal and testify against Beasley, he said he always puts the gun in the hand of his elder friend.
The statement was also the first time Rafferty contends that he cooperated with Beasley out of fear. That backs up the assertion by Rafferty’s defense attorneys who also contend fear drove the teen to help Beasley.
Rafferty was there, it appears, to drive Beasley from Akron to Noble County, dig graves and share in at least some of the property taken from the dead men.
He talks about how Beasley, 53, conceived of killing Akron resident Ralph Geiger in August 2011 to steal the man’s identity. Rafferty’s confession says Beasley then followed up with a Craigslist help-wanted ad to lure three more men.
Rafferty said he and Beasley, a longtime family friend, built a trusting relationship with each other over several years. They attended church services together. Rafferty helped Beasley, a self-proclaimed minister, with his Christian work.
But when Beasley, an ex-con, got arrested on charges of leading a prostitution ring out of his Akron home, Rafferty said his friend needed money, a new identity, a job and the teen’s help.
“At some point, he presented the suggestion that he needed my help to survive,” Rafferty told detectives in the taped statement played for jurors. “Somehow, he had this farm job in his head.”
Rafferty said Beasley spent time in August 2011 driving around Akron searching for a look-alike to target. They surveyed places like homeless shelters and the Salvation Army kitchens. Geiger was known to live at the Haven of Rest shelter in Akron.
According to Rafferty, Beasley approached Geiger and proposed the deal: Come to work as a handyman at a rural property in Noble County. The job promised a salary as a free place to live. Geiger, down on his luck, eagerly accepted.
There was no job.
The three drove Interstate 77 south to Caldwell in the early morning of Aug. 9. Rafferty insists he didn’t know Geiger was about to die.
“I wasn’t told we were taking him down [south] and murdering him,” Rafferty said.
He told detectives he believed there was a farm job for Geiger, 56. “I didn’t know it didn’t actually exist.”
Rafferty stopped his car off a rural road and got out. It was then that he heard a gunshot and saw “Mr. Geiger sitting in the creek bed.”
While Rafferty dug a 4-foot-deep hole, Beasley cut the clothing off Geiger, leaving him nude before he was dragged to the grave. Beasley and Rafferty then returned to Akron.
At one point in the interview, detectives ask Rafferty if he was ever threatened by Beasley. The teen said that after Geiger’s death, which he did not expect, Beasley “ordered” him to dig the grave. He also said that in the ensuing days, Beasley “watched me like hawk” and called every other day.
At one point, Rafferty said, Beasley reminded the teen that he knew where his mother and sister lived.
At trial this week, prosecutors presented a letter written by Beasley to an Akron woman instructing her to retrieve a wallet and computers he had buried in her yard. The wallet contained Geiger’s driver’s license, birth certificate and other property.
Rafferty said he authored a poem a week later about the killing as a way of releasing tension. The poem was not read in court.
David Pauley was the next man killed. His death came Oct. 23. This killing, Rafferty said, appeared to be for money. Pauley drove from Virginia to accept the handyman job and arrived with a trailer full of items. This time, Rafferty and Beasley dug a grave before meeting their targeted victim. Pauley, 51, was shot in the head and buried near Geiger.
Beasley then drove Pauley’s truck and trailer to Akron and divided the take, selling some items and giving others away. Rafferty said he received a shotgun, a small baseball bat, a toolbox and a pocket knife.
Rafferty said he didn’t fully hear about the Craigslist ad until just before the Davis shooting on Nov. 6.
“He mentioned Craigslist, but he didn’t disclose that was the method until after the Pauley incident,” Rafferty said.
Beasley seemed “excited” about the upcoming meeting with Davis, 48. He learned in talks with Davis he planned to take the job and relocate from South Carolina with a large load of property, including a motorcycle and lawn care equipment.
Beasley estimated he could make $30,000 to $40,000 selling Davis’ property and live out the winter, Rafferty said.
“I think he had counted on Scott Davis,” Rafferty said. “I think since he met [Davis and learned of the property that] it would get him through the winter and this would not have to be done again until the spring.”
Beasley and Rafferty dug Davis’ grave a day before the planned meeting. The site was on the same rural land, near a creek. But when it came time to kill Davis, Beasley’s gun jammed. He managed to fire a bullet into Davis’ arm, but the man escaped and survived to retell the story.
While it appeared their scheme would soon unravel, the killing didn’t.
“There was one more after Mr. Davis,” Rafferty confessed. The detectives had yet to find the body of Timothy Kern, 47.
Rafferty expressed remorse for what happened to Kern. He said the Massillon man, while unknowingly being driven to his grave near Rolling Acres Mall, spoke of his love for his children. Rafferty said Kern was essentially being killed for his 1989 Buick that Beasley intended to scrap for money.
Because Kern was so poor, and their potential take so low, Rafferty said the death of a less-wealthy man “takes all the minimal sanity out of it.”
“This was completely unnecessary,” he told detectives. “I felt horrible.”
Nonetheless, the grave was already dug and Kern was lured into the woods where he was shot four times in the head. He was dragged to the barely dug grave and left. Kern had $5 in his pocket.
Rafferty told investigators that the gun the FBI found in his house was used to kill Kern. He also had Kern’s TV in his car.
The trial is set to resume this morning.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.