More witnesses were called on the final day of testimony in the trial of Richard Beasley, who is accused of killing down-on-their-luck men, including two who were lured to Southern Ohio with a fake job listing on the Internet. The trial will conclude with closing arguments Monday in Summit County Common Pleas Court.
Testimony ended Thursday in the Craigslist trial with a Noble County man indirectly refuting the claims of Richard J. Beasley, the man accused of killing men who responded to a bogus Internet job ad.
Jurors will return to Summit County Common Pleas Court on Monday to hear closing arguments and begin deliberations.
Jerry Hood Jr. of Noble County was called to the witness stand by prosecutors.
Hood Jr., 30, never was asked if he was involved in the Craigslist-related murders. One defense question appeared to be headed that way before it was squelched by an objection from the state.
Hood, however, said that while he knew Beasley through his father, Jerry Hood, Sr., he had not heard of the Craigslist victims until the criminal investigation had been in the news.
A day earlier, Beasley, 53, of Akron, testified that he did not kill Timothy J. Kern, 47, of Jackson Township, Ralph H. Geiger, 56, of Akron, and David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va. He also denied trying to shoot and kill Scott W. Davis, who has ties to Stark County.
Beasley accused Hood Jr. and Davis of plotting to kill him in November 2011 as retaliation for Beasley leaking information about a motorcycle club to Akron police.
Davis, formerly of Massillon, testified last week that he responded to a Craigslist ad posted by Beasley that promised a job taking care of a 688-acre cattle farm in southern Ohio in the Caldwell area. Davis said he met Beasley for breakfast in Marietta. They ended up walking in a remote wooded area looking for farm equipment. He said Beasley shot him in the arm before he fled and hid in the woods. Davis said he eventually made it to safety and got medical attention.
Beasley claimed Davis, who had traveled from South Carolina to Ohio to be closer to his mother in Stark County, had a gun and tried to kill him.
Beasley and his defense attorneys linked Hood Jr. to what they called a violent and dangerous motorcycle gang in the Akron area.
Beasley also claimed that Hood Jr. was involved with the Craigslist posting.
Hood Jr. said he lives on a rural property that has not operated as a cattle farm since 1993 or 1994.
Answering questions calmly and often with “yes, sir” and “no, sir,” he said he did not need anybody to watch over the remote property.
Hood Jr., who spent about three years serving in the Marines Corps, including tours in Iraq, said he is computer illiterate and doesn’t even know how to check email.
A former member of the Brothers motorcycle club in Summit County, Hood Jr. said he still associates with the group, but doesn’t visit the Akron area often. When asked about the club’s reputation, Hood, whose father is a former officer of the motorcycle club, acknowledged that some members have criminal records. The son’s background includes a traffic offense but no criminal convictions, he testified.
Page 2 of 2 - Asked about Beasley’s involvement with the motorcycle organization, the witness said the defendant “was around the club a few times.”
James Burdon, one of Beasley’s defense attorneys, noted the Noble County sheriff had testified that he initially suspected Hood and his father, Jerry Hood Sr., in the Davis shooting. The sheriff had quickly ruled out the family. The father had suffered a serious head injury. And the son had a long beard at the time and did not match the description given by Davis.
In other rebuttal testimony Thursday, Tom Bennett, a retired handwriting examiner with the Columbus Police Department, told the jury that he believes Beasley wrote a letter that prosecutors say is connected to the Craigslist killings. The defendant has denied penning the letter.
Bennett studied both cursive and print handwriting samples, including that on a job application and a letter to Beasley’s daughter. He said he found enough unusual characteristics in Beasley’s writing to determine Beasley wrote the letter that prosecutors say is incriminating. Bennett also linked Beasley’s writing to that found on a gun shop record for service on a handgun found in the bedroom of Brogan Rafferty, the co-defendant in the case.
Rafferty’s DNA was found on the weapon, but not Beasley’s.
Last year, Rafferty was convicted for aggravated murder in the deaths of Kern, Pauley and Geiger. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. Rafferty served as an accomplice in the killings, according to prosecutors. He did not testify in Beasley’s trial.
During an aggressive cross examination, Burdon challenged Bennett’s findings on the handwriting. Bennett examined two letters, one print, one cursive.
He said that Bennett himself had testified that cursive and print writing generally cannot be compared. He also highlighted FBI guidelines that support the point.
Burdon said that Bennett had made his determination in a report prior to examining some of the evidence he referenced in court Thursday. A compilation of samples was used to make the determination, Bennett said.
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