As the body count grows, the prime suspect behind the Craigslist killings is professing his innocence and his dismay at the apparent cooperation of his alleged teen accomplice.
On Saturday, Summit County Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler ruled that the latest victim, Timothy Kern, 47, died of multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
The Massillon man had been missing since Nov. 13, when he told family and friends that he had landed the job he found on Craigslist.
His body was found Friday in a densely wooded area off Harlem Road, adjacent to the Rolling Acres Mall in southwest Akron.
That same day, the body of man was recovered in rural Noble County in southeast Ohio. The identity and cause of death have yet to be determined. A spokeswoman for the Licking County coroner, whose office is handling the case, said Saturday that the autopsy has yet to take place.
The bogus Craigslist ad promised prospective workers the use of a 688-acre farm, a two-bedroom trailer and $300 a week to oversee the property.
In reality, it served to lure at least four men, three of whom are dead and another wounded. While it appears that each victim was robbed, multiple police sources say the real motive behind the killings might simply be murder. The victims were generally poor and unemployed.
Richard Beasley, 52, is being held in the Summit County Jail under a $1 million bond. He has not been charged in the killings, but is considered the source of the help-wanted ad and the primary suspect.
His attorney, Rhonda Kotnik, said Saturday that she met with Beasley last week. During their meeting at the jail, the Akron man denied any involvement in the killings.
“He said it’s not him. That’s it. He’s innocent,” she said Saturday.
Kotnik said she has not yet talked to Beasley about the two bodies recovered Friday, but she intends to meet with him in the coming week.
Beasley’s alleged accomplice — Brogan Rafferty, 16, a Stow-Munroe Falls High School junior — is being held in a juvenile detention facility in Zanesville. He is charged with complicity to attempted murder in the Nov. 6 shooting of Scott Davis, a former Canton man, who visited Noble County after accepting the Craigslist job.
Davis was shot in the arm while walking the property with two men he met in response to the ad. He fled the assault and hid in the heavily wooded land for seven hours before finding help.
First body found
Within days, a Boston woman called authorities to report her brother missing. She said he had answered the same help-wanted ad. The body of David Pauley, 51, was recovered Nov. 15 in Noble County.
Rafferty was arrested the next day. Beasley was also taken into custody. He had been on the lam for three months, jumping bond in August while awaiting trial on unrelated drug trafficking and prostitution charges.
Kotnik said it appears Rafferty is speaking with investigators and placing blame on Beasley as detectives build their case. It is unclear what information led authorities to the bodies that were recovered Friday.
Beasley has known Rafferty for years, taking him to church regularly while serving as a mentor.
“He’s just disappointed that the kid is saying things about him,” she said.
After spending 15 years in prison over three different stints in the 1980s and 1990s, Beasley said he became a Christian and a minister of sorts.
Since about 2003, when he returned to Akron, he mentored a number of wayward people, mostly drug offenders.
Over time, he became known by some as “Chaplain Rich.”
He ran a halfway house in Akron, helped deliver food to the poor and regularly appeared before judges, speaking on behalf of defendants and vouching for their change in life.
Police say the halfway house was a front for prostitution.
He was jailed in Summit County from January through July on the prostitution and drug charges until Judge Tammy O’Brien lowered his $2,500 bond to $1,000. A potential parole violation stemming from a Texas conviction in the 1980s for burglary was also dropped, easing his release while he awaited trial.
But Beasley never appeared for subsequent hearings and was on the run, authorities said.
In early October, the Craigslist ad appeared for the first time. An untold number of people responded. Some interviews were conducted at Chapel Hill Mall.
Police believe Beasley was sizing up targets during the interviews. Family members say Beasley frequently visited Noble County, where a longtime friend owns property in Caldwell.
“That just doesn’t sound like Richard,” his mother, Carol Beasley, 70, said after his arrest. “Honestly, I don’t know how he got into all of this.”
A gag order was issued two weeks ago by a Noble County judge, and the county sheriff has interpreted the ruling as a ban on releasing details of the investigation.
Rafferty’s parents, however, have said their son has talked to detectives. The teen also told his family that he did not directly witness any shooting. However, after one event — the Davis shooting — Beasley allegedly returned out of breath and “distraught” after meeting with the man.
The divorced parents, Yvette and Michael Rafferty, said in previous interviews that they believe their son was threatened by Beasley, who mentored the teen for nearly 10 years through their church, The Chapel in Akron.
The parents could not be reached for comment Saturday.
Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or email@example.com.