Phil Trexler


To see more about the crimes Richard Beasley and Brogan Rafferty committed, click here to buy the Beacon Journal eBook The Craigslist Killings.



Accused Craigslist killer Richard Beasley pleaded not guilty Wednesday to a 27-count indictment.



Beasley, 52, kept his head bowed into his hands, shielding his face from media cameras during the hourlong appearance. Two Summit County prosecutors spent more than 55 minutes reading the entire indictment that carries the potential for a death sentence.



At one point, Common Pleas Magistrate John Shoemaker asked Beasley to raise his head so his attorneys could identify him for the record. Beasley appeared via a video feed from the county jail where he is being held without bond.



“Are there news people with cameras in the court?” Beasley asked. “I’m worried about contaminating the jury pool.”



There were four cameras in the courtroom for the highly publicized case. Beasley never raised his head and he was identified by his court-appointed attorneys, Brian Pierce and Rhonda Kotnik.



After court, the attorneys said Beasley is also worried that fellow inmates could identify Beasley and try to gain information to provide to prosecutors in exchange for leniency.



“He doesn’t want anyone at this point to know what he looks like or have any incentive to give information that may be erroneous in an attempt to bolster the prosecution’s case in this matter,” Pierce said.



Beasley maintains his innocence, but because of the severity and volume, the case is “overwhelming” for the Akron man, Pierce said. Kotnik said Beasley also feels he is being miscast and poorly portrayed in the media.



The 27-count indictment accuses him of several crimes, including multiple counts of aggravated murder, robbery and kidnapping. Prosecutors last week mistakenly said Beasley was indicted on 28 counts.



Beasley is accused of luring three men to their deaths with the use of a bogus Craigslist help-wanted ad. A fourth man was shot and injured.



The cost of defending Beasley will fall to taxpayers. Because he faces a potential death sentence, the county is required to appoint two attorneys on Beasley’s behalf.



In addition, his defense team said they will ask for additional funds to pay for defense investigators and experts. It will take months for attorneys to be ready for trial.



“We intend to mount a vigorous defense in behalf of Mr. Beasley,” Pierce said.



The case was assigned to Judge Lynne Callahan. A pretrial hearing was scheduled for next month. Beasley is also set to appear today before Judge Tammy O’Brien on an unrelated case alleging he operated a prostitution business from his Yale Street house.



His co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, 17, of Stow, is expected to be tried as an adult. The Stow-Munroe Falls High School student had his case moved to Summit County last week. A hearing on Rafferty is scheduled for Friday.



Rafferty was cooperating with authorities in Noble County, a prosecutor previously said. However, Rafferty has since backed out of a plea deal that was previously negotiated between his former lawyer and Noble County prosecutors.



His new attorney, John Alexander, said he is in the midst of reviewing the prosecution evidence.



“Right now, there’s no offer on the table, so we’re proceeding as if we’re going to trial,” Alexander said. “And I will do everything I can to make sure Brogan’s constitutional rights are protected and he receives a fair trial.”



Accusations denied



In a letter to the Beacon Journal last fall, Beasley denied being a “con man” and said he is a reformed Christian after serving prison stints in Ohio and Texas. He befriended Rafferty, a friend’s son, and served as the teen’s companion and mentor for more than five years.



The two attended church together, delivered food baskets and otherwise helped Akron’s poorer residents, friends said.



But while free on bond and facing a potentially long prison term after his arrest last year on the prostitution charges, authorities say Beasley concocted a plot that used a help-wanted ad on Craigslist to lure unsuspecting men to a job that didn’t exist.



The ad described a job in which the worker would oversee a vast farm in Noble County in exchange for use of a trailer and $300 a week in salary.



Some form of the ad appeared as early as July, when prosecutors say Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, responded. Geiger’s body was found in Noble County Nov. 25, the same day that the body of Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found in a wooded area near Rolling Acres Mall in Akron. Kern had also answered a Craigslist ad.



Prosecutors say Geiger was probably the first victim. Prosecutors believe he was killed around Aug. 9, shortly after telling friends he was moving out of an Akron homeless shelter to take on a “new job.”



But the Craigslist scheme did not come to the attention of law enforcement until Scott Davis, 48, a former Canton man living in South Carolina, was shot Nov. 6 while touring the bogus property with two men believed to be Beasley and Rafferty.



Davis told police he had eaten a meal with his two assailants before he was shot in the arm and fled to hide on the farm. He is expected to be a key prosecution witness.



His escape led authorities to the body of David Pauley, 51, of Virginia, who was buried on the same property.



After Rafferty’s arrest, police found the bodies of Kern and Geiger. Authorities believe Kern was killed Nov. 13 and Pauley on Oct. 23.



Phil Trexler can be reached at 330-996-3717 or ptrexler@thebeaconjournal.com.