Jury deliberations began Thursday afternoon in Summit County in the trial of Brogan Rafferty, 16, who is accused of helping lure three men to their deaths with job offers on Craigslist.
Prosecutors say Brogan Rafferty is a cold-blooded accomplice in the murders of three men. The teen’s attorneys say he was the frightened pawn of a master manipulator.
Which argument a Summit County jury chooses to believe could determine whether Rafferty, 17, spends the rest of his life in prison for aggravated murder and other charges.
Jurors in the Stow teen’s aggravated murder trial heard closing arguments Thursday afternoon and deliberated for more than two hours without reaching a verdict.
The jury is expected to resume its work this morning in Common Pleas Court.
Rafferty is being tried as an adult on charges he helped lure three men to their deaths last year with job offers on Craigslist. Another man was shot but survived.
In a final pitch to the jury, the defense cast Rafferty as a child who was manipulated by Richard J. Beasley, a former convict turned preacher. The teen was unable to find a way out of a horrible situation.
“He’s not a murderer,” defense attorney John Alexander said. “He had no part in this.”
But prosecutors said Rafferty knew from the beginning that Beasley, 53, of Akron, planned to rob and kill the victims after enticing them with offers of farm work in rural Noble County.
“They were partners in this, ladies and gentleman,” said Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jon Baumoel. “Partners murdering people execution-style in the woods.”
Beasley is awaiting trial for the 2011 killings. He faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
According to two weeks of testimony, the first victim, Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, was killed in early August, followed by James M. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., in October.
The third victim, Scott Davis, a 49-year-old former Stark County resident, was wounded but escaped in early November.
The last victim was Timothy J. Kern, 47, of Jackson Township. Unlike the others, who were shot in Noble County, Kern was killed in Akron, a week after Davis was shot.
Rafferty denied shooting any of the victims, but admitted to digging their graves and helping Beasley in other ways.
Several witnesses described Beasley as Rafferty’s father figure and mentor. They also called the older man a liar and a con man.
Taking the stand, Rafferty said he cooperated with Beasley because he feared for his own safety and that of his family. The teen also said he didn't know Beasley planned to kill Geiger the first time they went to Noble County.
PLAN OR PAWN?
But the prosecution showed the jury written excerpts of Rafferty’s statement to investigators, saying they proved Rafferty knew Beasley’s plan from the start.
Page 2 of 2 - "The first incident...would be the Geiger incident... I was to go help Beasley murder this man, hide the body for him, or with him, not for him,” one excerpt read.
Baumoel, the prosecutor, also reminded the jury of a play script found on the computer in Rafferty’s home. The script referenced characters, one of them Rafferty, digging graves in the woods for a crime boss, and there were searches on the same computer for information about gangsters and the TV show “The Sopranos.”
“He's a Mafia wannabe 16-year-old,” Baumoel said.
The defense said prosecutors were taking Rafferty’s statement to investigators out of context, and argued the teen’s lack of strength to come forward wasn’t a reason to convict him.
“He was a pawn,” Alexander said. “He did exactly what Beasley told him to do.”