Ohio teen convicted in deadly Craigslist scheme

Associated Press Modified: October 30, 2012 at 9:17 pm •  Published: October 30, 2012
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AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A teenager taken under the wing of a man defense attorneys described as a master manipulator was found guilty of aggravated murder Tuesday for his role in a deadly plot to lure men desperate for work with phony Craigslist job offers.

Prosecutors in the weekslong trial painted 17-year-old Brogan Rafferty as a quick student of violence and willing participant in three killings, while the defense argued he was acting under the duress of an accomplice, a self-styled chaplain depicted as a mentor.

Authorities say Rafferty, of Stow, helped Richard Beasley, of Akron, lure four victims at separate times with bogus Craigslist job offers to a nonexistent cattle farm in rural Noble County in southeast Ohio; they say the motive was robbery. Authorities say Beasley shot and killed three of the men; the fourth victim was shot in the arm and survived.

Rafferty stood with his hands clasped behind his back and showed no emotion as the verdicts were read. His mother leaned over and cried softly.

Led from the courtroom, Rafferty shook his head and said, "Nothing to say." He didn't respond to reporters' questions about the verdict.

Prosecutors and the defense, who are under a gag order, didn't comment afterward. The father of victim Timothy Kern flashed a thumbs-up after the verdicts were read but declined to comment when he left the courtroom.

Jury forewoman Dana Nash and other jurors said it was a difficult decision because of Rafferty's age, calling him "a child."

Jurors said they worked on the 25 charges against Rafferty one by one, with the most difficult one involving evidence surrounding the death of the first victim, Ralph Geiger. Rafferty was acquitted of an identity theft charge involving Geiger.

Jurors debated each charge and often reviewed their own notes and evidence presented at trial, including audio interviews Rafferty gave investigators.

Nash said they were skeptical of some of Rafferty's testimony, saying they felt as if he contradicted himself.

"We were trying to be fair, and we were fair," Nash said afterward. "We listened to everything, we observed everything, and we feel we made the right decision."

Rafferty had testified that he didn't want to be a part of such violence and went along with the plan only because he feared for his life.

"I thought he'd kill me," Rafferty said.

Rafferty was tried as an adult but faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison because he is a juvenile. His sentencing is set for Nov. 5.

Beasley, 53, has pleaded not guilty and could face the death penalty if convicted at his trial.

Jurors reached the verdict on their fourth day of deliberations, convicting Rafferty of three counts of aggravated murder and one count of attempted murder.

The man who survived, 49-year-old Scott Davis, of South Carolina, had testified as the prosecution's star witness, identifying Rafferty as Beasley's accomplice and telling a harrowing story.

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