To see more about the crimes Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty committed, click here to buy the Beacon Journal eBook The Craigslist Killings.
Brogan Rafferty is either a remorseless and eager murderer or an innocent child manipulated and threatened by his maniacal mentor into aiding in the execution-style killings of three men.
After three weeks of trial, the future of the 17-year-old Rafferty is in the hands of a Summit County Common Pleas jury. The panel spent nearly three hours Thursday deliberating its verdicts before going home for the night.
Talks resume this morning outside the courtroom of Judge Lynne Callahan. The jury discussion is expected to be lengthy. It took Callahan about 90 minutes Thursday morning just to read to jurors approximately 60 pages of legal instructions on the multiple charges Rafferty is facing, including aggravated murder, kidnapping and robbery.
The Stow teen could receive a life sentence for his alleged role in the so-called Craigslist killings of three down-on-their-luck, unemployed men and the wounding of a fourth.
His spiritual mentor and co-defendant, Richard Beasley of Akron, is being tried separately in January.
Beasley, however, was as much a lead character in the trial, as prosecutors portrayed Rafferty as an understudy to a ruthless killer.
“Richard Beasley is a murderer. He is a liar. He is a manipulator. But that doesn’t take Brogan Rafferty off the hook,” Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors during his closing remarks. “They are partners in the murder of innocent people killed execution-style in the woods.”
Beasley, an ex-con and self-proclaimed street minister, was the reason the killings took place, Baumoel said.
At first, he said, Beasley set out to kill Ralph Geiger, a 56-year-old homeless man, in order to take on a new identity and elude an arrest warrant. Later, Baumoel asserted, Beasley killed for the poor men’s personal property.
And Rafferty, he said, was essentially a starry-eyed, eager apprentice whom Beasley confided in and groomed into a cold-blooded killer. Rafferty, he said, is not the vulnerable teenage dupe Beasley targeted and forced into the plot, as defense attorneys have asserted.
“[Beasley] was brutally honest with one person, and that’s Brogan Rafferty,” Baumoel said. “He was brutally honest with Brogan Rafferty, who knew each and every one of his darkest secrets.”
Rafferty an easy mark?
Lead defense attorney John Alexander reminded jurors of Beasley’s character and how he sought out Rafferty. He said the teen was an easy mark, and he recounted Rafferty’s troubled childhood: born to a crack-addict mother and left to fend for himself as a kindergartner by his working father.
Beasley, then a family friend just released from prison, began guiding Rafferty when the boy was 6 or 7 years old.
Soon, Beasley became Rafferty’s confidant in life and in religion. The older man took the boy to The Chapel in Akron nearly every Sunday. The boy, eager to find purpose in life and adult role models, soon was helping Beasley in his street mission work of feeding the poor and helping drug-addicted hookers.
Alexander called Beasley a cunning manipulator who played the role of a preacher in order to access the most vulnerable people he encountered. That included Rafferty, whom Alexander said became an unwitting, and later helpless, accomplice to murder.
“He finds their vulnerabilities and hooks them,” Alexander said. In Rafferty’s case, Beasley was able to “hook, grab and pull him into a situation that he never wanted to be in … He exploited Brogan’s vulnerabilities.”
Rafferty testified Tuesday, telling jurors he was unaware of the bogus Craigslist ad Beasley allegedly crafted as a lure to the victims, all single men desperate for work. The help-wanted ad promised room, land and cash to oversee a remote Noble County property.
The teen also insists he had no idea that Geiger, the first victim, was being driven to Noble County on Aug. 9, 2011, not for work, but to be shot, killed and robbed. Rafferty told jurors Beasley shot the unsuspecting man, then forced Rafferty to dig a grave.
Afterward, according to Rafferty, Beasley threatened to kill the teen and the boy’s mother and sister if he contacted police.
Alexander said that by shooting Geiger in the back of the head, Beasley made his point to the stunned and frightened Rafferty.
“There was no line [Beasley] wouldn’t cross,” the attorney said. “The kid had no choice [but] to do what he did.”
After securing his silence, Rafferty said, Beasley went on to orchestrate the killing of David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, on Oct. 23, and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, on Nov. 13. One man, Scott Davis, 48, of South Carolina, survived a Nov. 6 attempt on his life at the Noble County site, and contacted authorities.
By Nov. 16, Rafferty and Beasley were suspects.
What did Rafferty know?
In his closing statement, Ohio Assistant Attorney General Paul Scarsella reminded jurors of multiple statements Rafferty gave to authorities, including the first two in which he never mentions his fear of Beasley nor the threats made against Rafferty’s family.
Eventually, Rafferty told all to police during a nearly three-hour interview Nov. 23. During that recorded interrogation, prosecutors contend Rafferty inferred he knew beforehand that Geiger was targeted and killed for his identity.
Defense attorneys say the comment was taken out of context and was merely information on Beasley’s plot that Rafferty later came to know.
Nonetheless, prosecutors say, Rafferty also failed initially to tell police of Geiger and Kern, whose bodies at the time had not been found. Yet, inside the teen’s bedroom, police found the pistol used to kill Kern and a shotgun belonging to Pauley.
This deception, Scarsella said, proves Rafferty still was protecting his mentor and was not a frightened child.
“Mr. Beasley is a liar. Mr. Beasley is a murderer. Mr. Beasley is also a teacher,” Scarsella said to the jury. “Mr. Beasley was the teacher in this situation, and Brogan Rafferty was the student.”
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or firstname.lastname@example.org.