Timothy Kern was among Craigslist victims killed while looking for work. His family testified about his last days Thursday in Summit County courtroom.
Timothy Kern was looking for a new job, a steady income and a break in life.
The 47-year-old Stark County man had lost a job with a street cleaning company. Hours had been reduced at his gas station job. His car was such a clunker that he had to fiddle with it for 30 minutes to get it started — if it operated at all. It wasn’t clear if he had a permanent residence.
So he was looking forward to a new job taking care of a sprawling farm property in southern Ohio. Kern had responded to a Craigslist ad promising $300 a week, paid expenses, a multi-bedroom place to live, plenty of land for hunting and fishing and a pay bonus.
The tough part would be living away from his sons in the Canton area, but it was a good opportunity.
That picture of Kern was painted Thursday in Summit County Common Pleas Court during the trial of Richard J. Beasley, 53, of Akron, who is accused of shooting and killing Kern and two other men. Prosecutors say Beasley also lured other victims with the false promise of a farm job in the Caldwell area.
Beasley, charged with nine counts of aggravated murder for three deaths, could face the death penalty if convicted. The other victims are David M. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk,Va., and Ralph H. Geiger, 56, of Akron. He also is charged with other crimes in a 27-count indictment, including the attempted murder of Scott W. Davis, who grew up in the Massillon area.
Davis testified earlier this week that he also responded to a Craigslist job offer posted by Beasley. Prosecutors allege that Beasley shot Davis in the woods in Noble County. Davis escaped and told his story to the jury.
The death of Kern and Davis’ report to police led to the arrests of Beasley and teenager Brogan Rafferty. In a previous trial, Rafferty was convicted of the aggravated murders of Kern, Pauley and Geiger and sentenced to life in prison with no chance for parole.
At his trial, the Stow High School student said he didn't try to stop Beasley or contact authorities because he feared for the safety of his family. Rafferty is not expected to testify in Beasley’s trial. A gag order prevents attorneys from both sides and other court officials from commenting on the case.
Among those testifying for the prosecution Thursday were Nicholas Kern, 19, a GlenOak High School senior, and Timothy Kern’s ex-wife, Tina Kern, 46, of Plain Township.
They recalled the days leading up to his death in November 2011. He had told Nicholas Kern and another son, Zachary, 20, about his new job. He kept in daily contact, through text messages, phone calls and visits. Nicholas took his dad to the Waffle House restaurant on Arlington Road in Summit County on Nov. 9, where he was to meet with the man he had contacted on the Internet about the farm work. Timothy Kern was looking for a man wearing a hat emblazoned with an American flag. Earlier this week, prosecutors showed a photo of Beasley wearing a patriotic hat, the same one he apparently was wearing when he was arrested Nov. 16.
Page 2 of 2 - According to prosecutors, Beasley was going by another name, among a handful he used as he masterminded the plot that also included robbing some of the men.
Kern’s former wife also knew about Tim’s plans. He used her computer to search for a job and to send and check email. He visited her home before he was to leave for southern Ohio. She let him take a TV from her basement so he would have something to do in his down time in the rural county, where cell phone coverage is spotty at best.
Nicholas Kern recounted bidding farewell to his dad and lending him $20 before he departed. The employer was supposed to pick him up and take his father to southern Ohio because Kern’s car couldn’t make the haul, the son testified. In a text message, the father told Nicholas he loved him. That was the last time he had heard from his dad.
After some days passed, the family had not heard from Kern. They got worried. News reports of the Craigslist case heightened the concern. After finding information on her computer about the Craigslist ad, Tina Kern contacted authorities.
During other testimony Thursday, a former FBI agent and a crime scene investigator with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation both said that Davis’ account and Kern’s disappearance helped lead investigators to Beasley. Vehicles were traced to both Beasley and Rafferty, including a truck that contained papers scribbled with phone numbers and names.
Kern’s car was found parked at the Italo’s pizza shop on Middlebranch Road in Stark County. His body was found buried in a shallow grave in woods near the former Rolling Acres Mall in Summit County. Sticks and debris over the spot made it look suspicious. About 50 members of law enforcement carefully had swept the woods. The Summit County medical examiner testified that Kern was shot five times in the head.
The jury also heard testimony from a man who had rented his Akron area basement to Beasley as living space. During the investigation, Beasley left contact information for the man after Beasley had moved out. A new cellphone number proved crucial in the probe, according to investigators, leading authorities to arrest Beasley on Nov. 16.
Testimony in the trial continues today in the courtroom of Judge Lynne Callahan.