Jury being picked in teen Craigslist killings case

THOMAS J. SHEERAN, Associated Press

AKRON, Ohio -- Jury selection began Tuesday in the murder trial of a teenager who was befriended by a self-styled chaplain accused in a deadly scheme to lure victims with phony Craigslist job offers.

Brogan Rafferty, 17, of Stow, is being tried as an adult. He and his co-defendant, Richard Beasley, 53, of Akron, have pleaded not guilty. Beasley will be tried separately.

Three men were killed last year _ two in Noble County in southeast Ohio and one found slain in Summit County near an Akron shopping mall _ after responding to what authorities said were bogus online job postings.

Rafferty, who was then 16, is suspected of helping Beasley lure victims with bogus job offers.

Rafferty cannot face execution because he was a juvenile at the time of the crimes. Instead, he could face life in prison.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Beasley.

Jury selection for Rafferty's case in Summit County Common Pleas Court could last several days, and the judge told prospective jurors the trial could take six weeks.

Rafferty, dressed in khaki slacks and a green, short-sleeve jersey, waved to prospective jurors with a tight-lipped smile when his attorney introduced him. The initial session was moved to a larger courtroom to accommodate the 56 prospective jurors.

Judge Lynne Callahan told the prospective jurors to avoid news reports on the high-profile case.

When the initial juror questioning was moved to a smaller courtroom for individual interviews, Rafferty took notes on a yellow legal pad and occasionally leaned over to whisper to a member of his defense team.

The initial prospective jurors interviewed by the judge and attorneys seemed familiar with the allegations, one describing Rafferty as having claimed he was "brainwashed" and another calling him "somehow associated" with Beasley.

Despite the notoriety of the case, the judge said she wasn't looking for jurors who hadn't heard anything about it, but those who could put aside any preconceptions and listen to the evidence.

The body of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was found on Noble County property owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters.

Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found in a shallow grave near an Akron-area shopping mall. He had been shot in the head.

The body of Ralph Geiger, 55, of Akron, was found in Noble County and had died Aug. 9 of a gunshot wound to the head.

A South Carolina man, Scott Davis, escaped after being shot in the arm by hiding in woods until it got dark. He has been subpoenaed to testify at Rafferty's trial.

Beasley was a Texas parolee who returned to Ohio in 2004 after serving time on a burglary conviction. He was awaiting trial on prostitution and drug charges when authorities took him into custody.

Police have said a halfway house he ran in Akron was a front for prostitution. Authorities said he was a mentor for Rafferty and had befriended him.