Jury selection resumes in Ohio Craigslist trial

THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press Published:

AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- A judge convened a fourth day of jury selection Monday as the triple killing trial in a plot to lure robbery victims with phony Craigslist job offers neared opening statements.

Three men were killed and a fourth was wounded. He escaped and alerted authorities in 2011.

The defendant, Richard Beasley, 53, has been described as a friend and mentor to his co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, 18, who was convicted in the three killings last year and was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.

Rafferty, too young at the time of the crimes to be eligible for the death penalty, has agreed to testify against Beasley. It was unclear whether his testimony could lead to a sentence reduction.

At his sentencing, Rafferty said the crimes were horrible but he didn't recognize any chance to stop the killings. Rafferty said he feared Beasley would kill him and his family members if he tipped off police.

Beasley, an ex-convict and self-styled street minister in Akron, could face the death penalty if convicted, and prosecutors have signaled that is their goal.

Questions to prospective jurors focused on the length of the trial, pre-trial publicity and views of the death penalty.

The judge repeatedly asked prospective jurors who expressed qualms about the death penalty whether they could put aside those sentiments and follow the law when deliberating. If Beasley is convicted, the same jury would hear evidence on whether to recommend that the judge impose the death sentence.

Any sentencing proceeding likely would begin April 8, the judge said.

Prosecutors say the victims, all down in their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance, were lured with phony offers of southeast Ohio farmhand jobs on Craigslist.

The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon. The lone survivor, Scott Davis, was shot in the arm, knocked the weapon aside and fled into the woods. Davis, of South Carolina, was looking to move closer to his family in the Canton area.