The 53-year-old Akron man could get the death penalty now that he’s been convicted of aggravated murder and other charges in the Craigslist killings.
Carol Beasley and Jack Kern both shed tears as the long list of guilty verdicts were rattled off Tuesday evening in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Two kinds of tears. Those of a mother who knows her 53-year-old son, Richard Beasley, faces a possible death sentence after he was found guilty of nine counts of aggravated murder in the slayings of three men: Timothy Kern, Ralph Geiger and David Pauley.
And the tears of a father whose son was shot multiple times in the back of the head. The son had responded to a bogus Craigslist advertisement posted by Richard Beasley in hopes of getting a new start as the caretaker of a secluded farm property in southern Ohio.
Carol Beasley sat alone in the front pew less than 10 feet from her son, whose back was turned to her in a wheelchair. Richard Beasley sometimes shook his head and gazed down as the verdicts were announced just after 6 p.m.
After he was found guilty of more than 20 counts tied to the 2011 slayings — as well as the attempted murder of former Massillon resident Scott W. Davis — the defendant’s mother sobbed, her crying piercing the tense silence in court.
Twelve jurors convicted Beasley of all 26 counts in the indictment and accompanying specifications. (Information has been corrected to fix an error. See correction below. 11:30 p.m. March 14.)
The same jury will return to Judge Lynne Callahan’s courtroom on March 20 to begin the sentencing phase.
They’ll have four options under Ohio law: Death; life with no parole; life with a chance at parole in 30 years; or life with chance at parole in 25 years.
In the courtroom, Jack Kern was showered with hugs by prosecuting attorneys. At the same time, a deputy wheeled Beasley out and on his way back to jail. Moments later, his mother, still visibly upset, boarded an elevator to exit the building.
Davis, the man who broke the Craigslist case open after he survived a gunshot wound to the arm, sat behind Jack Kern. At one point, as the verdicts were reeled off, Kern turned and locked eyes with Davis, who nodded his approval. Davis, the man whom Beasley had accused of attacking him, wiped tears away during a portion of the verdict.
“I'm glad it was a guilty verdict,” Davis said after exiting the courtroom, his expression stern. “Justice was served.”
Asked for his thoughts on Beasley’s testimony claiming Davis was a hitman for a motorcycle gang, Davis answered as he hurried away. “The only person that is a liar is Richard Beasley. The justice system proved that.”
The verdict marked almost the tail end of the saga involving Beasley and Brogan Rafferty, a Stow teenager, who was convicted in the same courtroom last year of the aggravated murders. Rafferty, 16 at the time of the crimes, was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Prosecutors had portrayed Rafferty as Beasley’s accomplice, driving a car, digging graves and helping in other ways. Rafferty said he did not report Beasley, described in the case as his mentor, because he feared for his safety and that of his family.
Page 2 of 2 - A gag order prevents prosecutors and defense attorneys from commenting on the case.
During Beasley’s two-week trial, a deluge of witness testimony, documents, clothing exhibits, cellphone records, handwritten letters, emails, photographs and video surveillance was presented. Jurors deliberated a few hours Monday night and from about 9 a.m. Tuesday until the evening.
A parade of witnesses, combined with other evidence cited by prosecutors, told the same story:
Beasley was deceitful and cunning, baiting the three men with the offer of $300 a week, land for hunting and fishing, a place to live, various expenses paid, a bonus and the tranquility of the unspoiled countryside.
Davis had traveled from South Carolina to be closer to his mother in Ohio. Kern had lost a job and saw his hours cut at a gas station where he worked. Kern was reluctant to move two hours away from his three sons, including two teenagers who lived with his ex-wife in Stark County, but he was hopeful about the new job. Geiger, who had spent some time in a homeless shelter, thought the caretaker position would help him get back on his feet. Pauley also was lured by an Internet job ad.
The prime witness in both the Rafferty and Beasley trials, Davis had told jurors in a steady, firm voice that Beasley took him into dense woods to find farm equipment in November 2011. After turning his back, the Stark County native said he heard the click of a handgun before spinning around and getting blasted in the arm. The initial misfire saved his life, Jonathan Baumoel, assistant Summit County prosecutor, told jurors.
In the most gripping testimony of the trial, Davis said he hid in the woods, fearing for his life before finding help and getting medical attention. Knocking on the door of a rural home, he was assisted by a Canton man whose mother lives in Noble County.
Testimony had wrapped up Monday with more than three hours of closing arguments from the defense and prosecution.
Baumoel depicted Beasley as a blood-thirsty killer. A wave of evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Beasley, the attorney argued.
Then the defense had its turn. James Burdon, one of Beasley’s two attorneys, told jurors the state presented a flimsy case based on circumstantial evidence. Another criticism was that investigators did not follow what the defense considered other leads and other possible suspects in the case, including Beasley’s associations with a motorcycle gang.
Reach Ed at 330-580-8315 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @ebalintREP
CORRECTION: Richard Beasley was convicted of all 26-counts in his indictment and all accompanying specifications. Information was wrong when this article was first published March 12.