But Richard Beasley’s attorney argued that “there's no witnesses that this defendant committed any of these murders period.” He said prosecution lacks compelling evidence.
A trail of email exchanges, phone calls, letters and other evidence will show that Richard Beasley lured three men to their deaths on the false promise of a job and a fresh start in life, prosecutors told a jury Monday during opening arguments of Beasley’s trial.
A defense attorney countered that “there’s no witnesses that this defendant committed any of these murders, period.” He said the prosecution lacks compelling evidence.
Beasley, 53, of Akron, faces nine counts of aggravated murder for three victims, including Timothy J. Kern, 47, of Jackson Township. Beasley could get the death penalty if convicted.
Beasley also is accused of shooting and wounding a fourth victim, Scott Davis, who testified at a previous trial that he got away and waited for several hours in a wood area before seeking help. Davis had moved from South Carolina to Ohio to find work so he could be closer to his sick mother in Stark County.
Beasley, a former machinist born in Washington D.C., lured the victims with a phony job offer — often posted on Craigslist — for work on a Noble County farm.
Ralph H. Geiger, 56, of Akron, met Beasley at the Haven of Rest in Akron. Geiger, who like the other victims and Davis, had been down on his luck and was looking for a new start, the prosecution said.
Beasley offered him a job, and then killed and buried him in a remote part of Noble County. After that, the prosecution said, Beasley stole Geiger’s identify and used it to find a job for himself.
“He wanted a new identity and he got it,” said Emily Pelphrey, a prosecuting attorney. “He had to kill to get it.”
She said Beasley often changed his appearance and used four other aliases: Jack, Dutch, Ralph and Gaylord.
She likened Beasley as a “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” spurring an objection from the defense. After a brief discussion with the judge, Pelphrey veered away from the reference, and did not continue with her plan to link its origin to the Bible.
Prosecutors say Beasley at one time had a hand-written map that showed where some of the victims’ possessions, including a wallet and a computer, were buried. Cellphone tracking records also placed him in the same area as victims when they were en route to Noble County to meet him to talk about the farming work, Pelphrey said.
The other victim is David M. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va. His body also was found in Noble County. Kern’s body was found near Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.
In October, in the trial of codefendant Brogan Rafferty, the prosecution portrayed the 17-year-old Rafferty as Beasley’s accomplice in the robberies and killings. Rafferty was found guilty of the aggravated murders of Geiger, Pauley and Kern. He was sentenced to life with no chance for parole.
Page 2 of 2 - Pelphrey went on to tell the jury -- 10 men and 8 women -- that they will hear Davis describe how he met with Beasley and was shot before managing to escape with a wounded arm. A grave already had been dug by Beasley for Davis’ body, Pelphrey said. A photo was shown of the empty grave on a video screen in the courtroom.
“Do not check your common sense at the door,” Pelphrey said.
James L. Burdon, Beasley’s attorney, said that while his client did not commit the crimes he’s accused of, he’s “not a saint.”
“... He did a lot of things wrong in his life,” including associating with “bikers,” among them a man whom he said was violent and dangerous. He told the jury that will be expanded on later in the trial.
Burdon also pledged to share a dramatically different account of what happened in a violent encounter between Beasley and Davis. Davis accused Beasley of “something he didn't do,” the attorney said.
During the prosecution's opening argument, Beasley, seated in a wheelchair, didn’t appear to make eye contact with jurors. That changed when his attorney addressed the jury, often peering at the group intently.
Beasley nodded when the prosecuting attorney said that Beasley’s DNA was not found on any firearms or bodies in the case.
The defense made repeated references to Beasley’s poor health, saying he was injured in a 2006 vehicle crash that left with debilitating injuries that make it “hard to respond and react.”
The defendant’s mother was seated in the first row of the gallery, about six to eight feet away from her son. Relatives of Kern, including his father, were in the front row on the other side of the courtroom.
Beasley’s trial, before Summit County Common Pleas Court Lynne S. Callahan, is expected to last several weeks.