Survivor details Craigslist attack in court. “I heard a curse word and a gun cock," Scott Davis said. “I knew I was in trouble.”
Scott Davis saw the job offer to become caretaker of a 600-acre farm as a chance to return to his Ohio roots and help his family.
He grew up in Massillon. His mother and family still lived in the area, and they needed his help. The farm in Noble County was close enough. So last November, he loaded his truck and a trailer and left South Carolina. Davis was told to meet a man named “Jack” in Marietta and that they would go from there to the farm near Caldwell. When Davis met the man and a boy he called his nephew, he didn’t know they really were accused murderers Richard Beasley and Brogan W. Rafferty.
On Friday morning, a Summit County Common Pleas Court jury heard the story of Davis’ encounter with the pair last Nov. 6. Davis was the first witness in Rafferty’s trial for charges of aggravated murder, aggravated robbery, kidnapping and theft.
Rafferty, 17 and from Stow, is charged for helping Beasley as he killed three men and shot Davis. Prosecutors portray Rafferty as a willing accomplice while defense lawyers contend he was a child — 16 when the crimes occurred — being manipulated and threatened by the 53-year-old Beasley, a man who had been his mentor and friend.
Beasley faces similar charges in a separate trial set to begin early next year.
The pair was charged for the deaths of Timothy Kern, 47, from Jackson Township; Ralph Geiger, 56 from Akron; and David M. Pauley, 51, from Norfolk, Va. Kern and Pauley were killed after answering the ad Beasley posted on Craigslist. Beasley apparently met Geiger at an Akron homeless shelter.
Prosecutors contend that Beasley used the Craigslist ad to entice potential victims. The ad offered $300 a week and housing for someone to work on the farm and tend the cattle and other animals. In opening statements, Rafferty’s defense indicated that Beasley was looking for loners and people who wouldn’t be missed if he killed them, later using Geiger’s identity to befriend others.
A SURVIVOR’S TALE
Davis testified that he answered the ad and began corresponding via email with a man named “Jack.” They also talked on the telephone and Davis accepted the job. On Nov. 5, he headed for Ohio. He met “Jack” and his nephew — Davis identified him in court as Rafferty — at a restaurant in Marietta.
Davis said he followed Rafferty and “Jack” to Caldwell, where the pair had him park his truck and trailer. The trio then drove to a secluded area where the farm supposedly was located. Davis said he and “Jack” walked into the woods while Rafferty drove away in the car.
Davis never saw Rafferty again, but later picked him from a police photo line-up. When asked if Rafferty appeared afraid of “Jack,” Davis answered: “I can’t say if he was or wasn’t. But I didn’t notice anything.”
Page 2 of 2 - When they entered the woods, Davis said “Jack” supposedly was looking for equipment they would use to repair a damaged road. After walking into a wooded area, “Jack” told Davis they were in the wrong spot and that they should go back to the road.
Everything changed when Davis turned around.
“I heard a curse word and a gun cock,” Davis said. “I knew I was in trouble.”
Davis said he managed to knock the weapon away. But “Jack” fired and Davis was hit in his right arm. Davis said he ran through the woods while “Jack” followed, shouting at him and firing. Eventually Davis found a place to hide. He stayed in the woods for seven hours, before walking three miles and finding a house where he could get help.
Jurors also heard from Canton resident Jeff Schockling, whose mother owns the house where Davis went seeking help. Schockling was there that Sunday night and called for help. Schockling said Davis’ right side was covered with blood and his face was pale.
“He just had a scared, kind-of-like-panicked look,” Schockling said.
Noble County Sheriff Stephen Hannum testified that he initially thought Davis was wounded in a drug deal that had gone bad. He suspected nearby residents as the culprits, but quickly ruled them out.
One reason Hannum suspected the local residents was information that his department had received the week before from the U.S. Marshals Service, which planned to watch the area because they were looking for a man named Beasley who was wanted on several charges.
Also testifying was FBI Special Agent Corey E. Collins, who investigates computer crimes. Collins said he traced the Craigslist ad to a computer that Beasley had been using at a residence in Akron. The computer’s owner, however, knew Beasley by a different name.
No computer evidence connected Rafferty to the ad, Collins said.
But the agent said he found two documents — a poem and a couple of paragraphs for a play — on Rafferty’s computer. Both documents, written by Rafferty in August 2011, seemed to describe Geiger’s death. In opening arguments, defense lawyers said Rafferty was walking a trail on the Noble County property behind Beasley and Geiger when Beasley pulled a gun and shot Geiger in the back of his head.
The trial is expected to continue Monday in front of Judge Lynne S. Callahan.