To see more about the crimes Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty committed, click here to buy the Beacon Journal eBook The Craigslist Killings.
Richard James Beasley will face the death penalty after being convicted Tuesday of all aggravated murder charges in the 2011 shooting deaths of three men and the attempted murder of a fourth.
The announcement of the jury’s decision in the so-called Craigslist killings case came shortly after 6 p.m. as Summit County Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan methodically read the signed verdict forms for each of the charges and death penalty specifications in Beasley’s lengthy indictment.
Beasley, 53, sitting in a wheelchair at the far end of the defense table, had his head lowered through most of the proceedings and appeared to shake his head in disagreement as the guilty verdicts were read one after another.
His trial has not concluded.
Next Wednesday morning, in what is known as the mitigation phase of the capital case, a mini-trial will begin. It will determine whether the jury will recommend the death penalty.
Beasley was convicted of the slayings of Ralph Geiger of Akron, David Pauley of Virginia and Timothy Kern of Massillon, in addition to the attempted murder of Scott William Davis, the lone survivor of the 2011 shootings and the state’s star witness.
Prosecutors in their closing arguments said Beasley was the man who devised the Craigslist plot, luring all of the men to a remote property in Noble County for a farm caretaker’s job that did not exist.
Geiger, 56, was the first victim. On Aug. 8, 2011, he left the Haven of Rest homeless shelter on East Market Street, made the trip to downstate Ohio and was never heard from again by those he left behind, prosecutors said.
Summer Rolley of Massillon, who called Geiger her “father figure,” attended the verdict announcements Tuesday night inside a spillover courtroom. She watched the proceedings on a big-screen television with a live camera feed from inside Callahan’s courtroom.
Moments after 6 p.m., when the judge read the first aggravated murder verdict in Geiger’s case, Rolley silently thrust her right arm above her head.
Afterward, she spoke briefly about him and the other men who were killed.
“Ralph Geiger had a heart. He didn’t deserve this. This guy right here,” she said, gesturing at Beasley in his wheelchair, “he’s going to die easier than they did.”
Rolley said she was happy with the verdicts. She was asked how she would feel if the jury recommends death when the mitigation phase of the trial starts next week.
“It’s not going to bring [Geiger] back. He’s gone,” Rolley said of the man she had known for 19 years. “But let’s say this: They say, ‘Mr. Beasley,’ which he don’t even deserve to be called that. He’s going to die an easier death than all of them did.”
She broke down and cried and could not continue.
Under a gag order Callahan imposed early last year, all parties directly involved in the case, including court officials and attorneys for both sides, are prohibited from commenting on case details outside court.
Despite the jury’s guilty findings in the vast majority of felony charges and specifications in Beasley’s indictment, the jury found he was not the “principal offender” in several of the underlying felony specifications in the Kern case.
That apparently means the panel decided there was reasonable doubt that Beasley was the triggerman in Kern’s death.
Summit Assistant Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told the jury in closing arguments, however, that criminal complicity, under Ohio law, was an essential concept of the case. It did not matter, he said, if Beasley or his young co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, was the triggerman in one of the shootings.
Likening the concept to a getaway driver who never goes into the bank on a holdup, Baumoel told the jury “a complicitor is just as guilty of the crime as the principal offender.”
Rafferty, now 18, is being held in a neighboring county jail and could be called to testify in the mitigation phase of Beasley’s continuing trial.
A former Stow-Munroe Falls High School student, Rafferty was convicted of multiple aggravated murder charges late last year and was sentenced by Callahan to life in prison without any chance of parole.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or email@example.com.