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The Suburbanite
  • Witnesses: Craigslist murder suspect was shy, changed

  • On Monday, attorneys for the Stow teenager got their chance to put on his defense, calling several witnesses who described Rafferty as a respectful, kind and quiet.

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  • Kind. Compassionate. Innocent. Shy.
    One after another, witnesses described a young man at odds with the murderer’s apprentice outlined so far by authorities in Brogan Rafferty’s trial.
    “He ain’t got it in him,” his father, Michael Rafferty, told the jury.
    Rafferty, 17,  of Stow, is on trial in Summit County Common Pleas Court, facing multiple counts of aggravated murder,  aggravated robbery, kidnapping and theft.
    Monday was the first chance for the defense to present its case. It came after a week of testimony and evidence, including Brogan Rafferty’s own statements, linking him to the killings of three men and the shooting of a fourth.
    Authorities allege that Rafferty helped 53-year-old Richard J. Beasley, of Akron, in his scheme to lure the victims with a phony Craigslist ad offering farm work in Noble County, kill them and steal their identities and possessions.
    The defense has said Beasley manipulated the then-16-year-Rafferty; the prosecution argues the teen was a willing accomplice.
    Beasley is set for trial early next year. He denies the charges and faces the death penalty if convicted.
    UPBRINGING
    The  defense witnesses included Rafferty’s father, a best friend, a school counselor and a youth minister.
    Rafferty’s parents split when he was an infant and he was raised by his father. Michael Rafferty said the marriage ended because Brogan’s mother was addicted to crack cocaine.
    Because he worked long hours as a machinist, Brogan learned to be on his own, getting himself on the school bus in the morning and coming home to an empty house, Michael Rafferty said.
    “He raised himself, in my opinion,” testified school counselor Susan Deitrick.
    Even though Brogan Rafferty looked like a “big dude” he was really a “puppy dog,” she recalled.
    CHANGE NOTED
    Investigators have said they believe Beasley killed the first victim in August 2011 and targeted the others during the following months.
    Several witnesses noted a change in Rafferty’s demeanor around the same time. He became withdrawn and agitated. His conversations were short. He lost weight.
    Michael Rafferty said his son became forgetful about his chores and spent a lot of time in his room listening to his iPod.
    The elder Rafferty said he thought Brogan was heartbroken over a girl.
    “He seemed on edge a lot,” said Kaleb Moore, who described himself as Rafferty’s best friend since the seventh grade.
    Moore said he asked his Brogan Rafferty how he was doing.
    Rafferty stated he was OK, and Moore said he didn't  push the subject, figuring Rafferty would eventually tell him.
    Under cross examination, Moore said Rafferty never mentioned anything about Beasley and Noble County.
    Page 2 of 2 - LIKE AN UNCLE
    Beasley became a part of Rafferty’s life early on.
    Michael Rafferty said he met Beasley 22 years ago through motorcycle club events. They weren't the best of friends, but Beasley would come to his home every Sunday for dinner and to watch a ball game, Michael Rafferty said.
    After a stint in prison, Beasley was very religious and had the goal of becoming preacher. When he asked if he could take Brogan, who was about 6-years-old, to church, Michael Rafferty agreed.
    His son was enthusiastic about going to church and Beasley was like an uncle and a mentor, Michael Rafferty said.
    But Beasley had another side, which the jury heard about from Amy Saller, a former crack addict and prostitute.
    Saller said “Chaplain Rich,” as she called Beasley, claimed to run a half-way house for prostitutes, but was actually selling their services online.
    Saller said she lived in the house, off and on, between 2009 and 2011. Through Beasley, she met Rafferty, who the older man introduced to her as his nephew.
    “He was so innocent,” Saller recalled.
    Eventually— the exact time wasn’t clear — the elder Rafferty began to limit his and Brogan’s contact with Beasley.
    Beasley had talked about robbing a bank and revealed he was on the run from the law, Michael Rafferty said.
    But the contact between Beasley and Brogan Rafferty didn’t stop.
    The prosecution challenged Michael Rafferty’s assertion that participating in the killings wasn’t in his son’s nature.
    “You didn’t think Richard Beasley had this in him, either,” countered Assistant Attorney General Paul Scarsella.
    “Absolutely not,” Michael Rafferty said.
    WHAT’S NEXT?
    Testimony in the case could be finished as early as Tuesday. Among the possible witnesses is a forensic psychologist who is expected to say Brogan Rafferty acted under duress.
    The prosecution asked Judge Lynne S. Callahan not to allow the expert to testify on the grounds that duress is a legal, not a medical, conclusion that would rely on evidence not before the jury.
    The judge didn’t rule on matter, saying she still needed to read the psychologist’s report.