Defense attorney James Burdon countered that the state presented a weak case that ignored leads to others connected to Richard Beasley and the incidents.
Criminal mastermind. Liar. Blood-thirsty killer. That’s how the prosecution described Richard J. Beasley, the man accused of killing men by luring them to the remote woods of southern Ohio.
Defense attorneys countered by arguing that the state did not present enough evidence for a jury to find the 53-year-old Akron man guilty of nine counts of aggravated murder and a slew of related charges. If convicted, Beasley could face the death penalty.
During closing arguments, which stretched roughly four hours Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court, prosecutors said that Beasley is a shrewd manipulator and ruthless killer. Had he not been arrested by authorities, the state alleged, Beasley would have kept killing.
“Richard Beasley was not going to stop ... the killing was not going to stop,” said Jonathan Baumoel, assistant Summit County prosecutor. “He had a thirst for blood. He had a thirst for death.”
All the evidence points to only Beasley, who devised a scheme to draw men to the Caldwell area with a phony job advertisement on Craigslist and on a similar website, prosecutors contend. To believe Beasley’s assertions, made during testimony last week, the jurors would have to suspend all logic and believe that several witnesses lied while the defendant told the truth.
Beasley is charged with the deaths of Timothy Kern, of Jackson Township, David Pauley, of Norfolk, Va. and Ralph Geiger. Geiger, who had been living in a homeless shelter in Akron, did not respond to the Internet advertisement, but his body was found buried in the woods in Noble County. The three deaths occurred in late summer and early fall in 2011, according to authorities.
Kern was killed for an old TV and the $5 his teenage son had loaned him, prosecutors said. Beasley looked for easy, trusting victims, Baumoel said. He turned away other men who interviewed for the fake farm job because one applicant knew martial arts, another planned to bring his fiancée and another was going to take a gun with him when they toured the rural property, according to the prosecution.
Money and staying out of prison were Beasley’s motivation in the crimes, Baumoel said.” He took those lives in a cold, calculated, vicious manner.”
As prosecutors made their case, Beasley sometimes shook his head disapprovingly.
Defense attorney James Burdon countered that the state presented a weak case reliant on circumstantial evidence that ignored leads to others connected to Beasley and the slayings.
“No one witnessed the death of anyone in this case,” he said.
“They should be collecting all the evidence and let the chips fall where they might,” Burdon said of investigators. “That's what they didn't do in this case.”
Burdon said that Scott W. Davis, formerly of Massillon, did not get shot in the arm by Beasley as he claimed after responding to a Craigslist posting for a job watching over a sprawling farm property in Noble County. Instead, the attorney said, Davis assaulted Beasley.
Page 2 of 3 - Beasley claimed that Davis was a hitman who tried to shoot and kill him in the woods because Beasley had provided information to police about a motorcycle gang based in Summit County. He tied Davis to Jerry Hood Jr. Beasley claimed that Hood was involved with the Craigslist help wanted ad.
Hood, who got to know Beasley through Hood’s father, denied Beasley’s allegations in court last week and said he didn’t know how to check email or operate a computer. He said he wasn’t looking for anybody to take care of his family’s remote property, which hasn’t been used as a cattle farm since 1993 or 1994.
Davis said he hid in the woods for seven hours after getting shot by Beasley. Eventually he walked about three miles and knocked on the door of a home on a back road, he testified.
Baumoel noted that Davis didn’t seek help at the nearby Hood residence. “If this is the actions of a hitman, biker gangs are in more trouble than we thought,” he said sarcastically.
Akron police had testified that Beasley had never formally worked as an informant. The information he gave also was not new.
Davis, who listened to closing arguments, seated near members of Kern’s family, had told jurors that while he enjoyed riding a Harley Davison motorcycle, he had never belonged to a motorcycle gang and he did not know anybody in Noble County before he went there.
ARGUMENTS OVER EVIDENCE
As an example of what he called a shoddy investigation, Burdon said that police did not search all of the contents in the trailer Davis had hauled to Ohio from South Carolina. He stressed that Davis had not told a deputy or other investigators about his pistol that was in the trailer.
Burdon pointed to the testimony of two Akron police officers about the violence and danger associated with two Akron area motorcycle clubs, inferring some connection to the Craigslist case.
The prosecution called the theories of the defendant and defense nonsense. Baumoel cited cellphone records, computer records and DNA evidence linking Beasley to the car driven by Brogan Rafferty, then 16, who was convicted of aggravated murder in the three deaths. Last year, Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. At his trial, prosecutors portrayed Rafferty as Beasley’s accomplice.
The defense cited a lack of DNA evidence connecting Beasley to a gun found in Rafferty’s bedroom and identified as the one used to kill Kern. “They told you from the beginning they don’t have scientific evidence in this case,” Burdon said.
Prosecutors, meanwhile, highlighted that the personal records and belongings of some of the victims were found in the Akron house where Beasley had been renting a room prior to his arrest on Nov. 16, 2011.
Page 3 of 3 - Burdon downplayed the significance of the cellphone records, arguing the state could only trace the recipients of calls made on prepaid phones. He also scoffed at the testimony of a handwriting examiner who said that Beasley wrote a letter connected to the Craigslist slayings.
“The person who wrote that letter (wrote it) to take the eye off them and put it on Richard Beasley,” Burdon said.
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