Brogan Rafferty, 17, has pleaded not guilty to being an accomplice to Richard J. Beasley, 52. According to Reuters, the two have been charged with aggravated murder, attempted murder and theft, among more than 30 counts. Rafferty is suspected of having aided in the murders by posting ads on Craigslist that baited the victims, and Beasley was the gunman.
The Stow, Ohio, teenager was 16 at the time of his arrest in November 2011, alongside Beasley, from Akron. They were caught after their last victim escaped and alerted police, authorities said. Scott Davis, 49, of North Carolina managed to avoid being killed, but was shot in the arm after answering a Craigslist ad offering $300 for a farming job south of Akron. According to Canton Rep, the job offered pay as well as housing.
Three other men were killed after answering the same ad. Their bodies were found in shallow graves in various parts of Ohio shortly after the arrests. David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was found in Noble County on the property of a coal company. Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, was also found in Noble County with a gunshot wound to the head. Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio was found near a shopping mall in Akron, also shot in the head.
Rafferty is being tried as an adult, but faces at most life imprisonment due to being too young for the death penalty. Beasley will be tried separately in January and faces death if found guilty.
The trial has already taken some interesting spins, with Rafferty smiling and waving at the 56 prospective jurors as he entered the court room on Tuesday. Due to the size of the juror pool, initial proceedings had to be moved to a larger room. Rafferty was then observed taking notes and conferring with a member of his defense team as jurors were taken for interviews with the judge and lawyers in groups of eight.
Judge Lynn S. Callahan expects jury selection to conclude on Thursday and opening arguments to begin on Friday. She has told prospective jurors to avoid news reports on the case, but some were already somewhat familiar with the charges, describing Rafferty as “brainwashed” and “somehow associated” with Beasley, according to AP.
Davis is among the witnesses scheduled to testify.
The case continues a trend of crimes committed with the aid of the listing website Craigslist. In 2009, former medical student Philip Haynes Markoff was dubbed the “Craigslist Killer” after being accused of murdering a masseuse he met through the website. He committed suicide in 2010 while awaiting trial.
Police also suspect there is a serial killer, or more than one, in the New York area attacking prostitutes soliciting services on the site.