Differing opinions between doctors closed nine days of testimony in Brogan Rafferty’s aggravated murder trial.
Differing opinions Wednesday between doctors closed nine days of testimony in Brogan Rafferty’s aggravated murder trial.
Defense lawyers had James Eisenberg, a psychologist, present their argument that Rafferty was coerced by co-defendant Richard Beasley to help in shootings and robberies that ended with three men dead and a fourth wounded.
Prosecutors responded with their own expert, Dr. Stephen Noffsinger, a psychiatrist, who countered that Rafferty participated because he was seeking Beasley’s approval, as well as a share of any loot gained by robbing the victims.
The case in Summit County Common Pleas Court is expected to be in the jury's hands on Thursday, following instructions and closing arguments. The jury instructions cover more than 40 counts – aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and theft – in the indictment filed against Rafferty, 17, from Stow.
Prosecutors contend Rafferty willingly worked with Beasley, 53, of Akron, as the older man lured victims to a secluded property in Noble County to kill and rob them.
Beasley enticed his victims with the promise of a job as caretaker for a farm, prosecutors contend. He eventually posted the job on Craigslist, which was seen by three victims. Rafferty provided transportation for Beasley and helped him in different ways, including digging victims’ graves before the shootings.
Beasley faces similar charges. His case is set for trial early next year.
Eisenberg testified that Rafferty feared Beasley, especially after seeing the older man kill Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, in Noble County. “My opinion is that this was a horribly traumatic event,” the doctor said.
That incident changed everything for Rafferty, Eisenberg said. Until the Geiger killing, Rafferty viewed Beasley as a confidant and father figure. Beasley was a family friend. While he had a past that included time in prison, he claimed to be reformed and a minister. The older man regularly took the boy to church for several years.
“He saw him as the good parent; as the big brother,” Eisenberg of the relationship between Rafferty and Beasley. “He saw him as kind of a hero figure.”
Prosecutors tried to block Eisenberg’s testimony. They argued the defense didn’t prove Rafferty was under duress when he helped Beasley. Assistant Attorney General Paul Scarsella said defense lawyers wanted Eisenberg to confuse the jury by talking about abuse, battered-child syndrome, duress and post traumatic stress disorder.
Judge Lynne S. Callahan allowed Eisenberg’s testimony, but limited his comments to discussing an evaluation he complied of Rafferty’s mental state.
Eisenberg’s report noted that Rafferty claimed he didn’t know Beasley planned to kill Geiger when they traveled from Akron to Noble County in August 2011. According to Eisenberg, being a witness to Geiger’s murder changed Rafferty’s demeanor. The doctor said friends and family described Rafferty as shutting down his emotions: “He didn’t seem to enjoy life as much.”
Page 2 of 2 - Defense lawyers contend Rafferty was threatened by Beasley following the Geiger killing. The older man also warned that he knew where to find the boy’s mother and sister.
Eisenberg said the three months between the killing of Geiger and Rafferty’s arrest were “one great big frightening experience” for the teenager. “I just think for him (Rafferty) there was no way to extract himself from it,” the doctor said.
But Jon Baumoel, a Summit County assistant prosecutor, questioned Eisenberg’s evaluation based of comments Rafferty made when talking to investigators a week after his arrest. Several times Rafferty indicated he knew Beasley intended to kill Geiger because he wanted to steal Geiger’s identity.
Eisenberg, who interviewed Rafferty in the spring, said he didn’t hear the interview until after he completed his report, and acknowledged that his assessment was inconsistent with Rafferty’s statements to investigators.
COULD HAVE ACTED
Noffsinger, meanwhile, reviewed the police statements before interviewing Rafferty on Oct. 1.
Noffsinger said he believed that while Rafferty might have been influenced by Beasley, the teenager never was threatened by the older man and didn’t perceive danger to himself or his family.
Rafferty also had many opportunities to report the crimes or any threats Beasley might have made, Noffsinger said. Because Rafferty never tried to contact police, he must not have been in danger. “If Brogan would have felt he was in immediate danger he would have called authorities or told his parents to get help, but he didn’t,” Noffsinger said.
The investigation that led to charges against Rafferty and Beasley began Nov. 6, 2011, following the shooting of Scott Davis, 49, a former Stark County resident. Davis told police that he drove to Noble County from South Carolina to take a job as the caretaker of a farm. Davis said he learned of the job on Craigslist.
Investigators received reports of other men who were promised a job as a caretaker on a farm, including two who answered the Craigslist ad. The investigation determined that Geiger was recruited at an Akron homeless shelter and killed in early August 2011.
James M. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was killed Oct. 23 after driving to Ohio to take the caretaker job. Finally 47-year-old Timothy Kern, of Jackson Township, was killed in Akron on Nov. 13, after being picked up at a Plain Township parking lot. Kern was supposed to be meeting his new employer from the Craigslist ad.