AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A jury on Wednesday recommended the death penalty for a self-styled street preacher convicted of killing three down-and-out men lured by bogus Craigslist job offers.
The same jury that convicted Richard Beasley made its recommendation after hearing from his mother and other witnesses who testified on his behalf in the penalty phase of his trial. The judge set his sentencing for Tuesday.
Victims' relatives hugged as the recommendation was announced. Beasley hung his head without moving, and his mother sobbed.
Beasley, 53, was convicted of teaming up with a teenager in 2011 to lure men with offers of farmhand jobs in southeast Ohio and to rob them. Three men were killed, and a fourth who was wounded testified at Beasley's trial.
Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said Beasley deserves to be executed.
"The law in Ohio for the death penalty, it's reserved for the worst of the worst, and it's the state's position that Richard Beasley is the worst of the worst," Baumoel said.
Jack Kern, whose 47-year-old son, Timothy Kern, was killed, alternately cried and smiled over the jury's recommendation.
"They made the right decision," he said outside court. "They knew what they had in their heart and what they had to do. They did it for us."
The jurors left without commenting, as did Beasley's defense team.
Baumoel, freed from a gag order that lasted during the trial and sentencing phase, said Beasley's teenage co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, wasn't called to testify by the state because he wanted a sentence reduction, which prosecutors rejected.
"We weren't willing to do that," the prosecutor said.
Rafferty, who was 16 at the time of the crimes, was too young to face the death penalty. He was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on his conviction last year.
In closing arguments, both sides highlighted Rafferty's life sentence in contrast to a possible death sentence for Beasley. The defense said that issue should factor into the jury's deliberations, but the prosecution said it wasn't an issue because Rafferty's age, by law, had ruled out death as an option.