Jury selection began Tuesday in preparation for the capital murder trial of the so-called Craigslist killer, who allegedly lured his suspects to rural Ohio in 2011 with fake farm-job offers.
The world found out about Richard Beasley, a 53-year-old, self-styled street preacher, after one of his alleged victims, Scott Davis, managed to escape and call the police.
During the trial last fall of Beasley’s suspected co-conspirator -- a teenager who had considered Beasley his mentor -- Davis testified that he responded to a Craigslist ad to do work in southern Ohio in the fall of 2011.
In testimony posted online by a Cleveland news station, Davis said that after walking out to a wooded area with Beasley, he heard a cuss word and then the cocking of a gun.
“I knew I was in trouble,” Davis said, adding that although he got shot in the arm, the gun jammed and he was able to escape.
Suspected co-conspirator Brogan Rafferty, who is now 18 and was tried as an adult, was sentenced in November to life in prison for his role in the murders. During his trial, he described his onetime mentor as manipulating him into helping with the crimes.
“He is evil, in my opinion: deceitful, cruel and a murderer,” Rafferty said of Beasley. “I was involved. I didn’t like it. I wouldn’t do it if I had any other choice.”
At a news conference last year, Ohio Atty. Gen. Mike DeWine said that after Davis came forward information about three other victims surfaced. Beasley is charged with the murders of Ralph Geiger, 56, David Pauley, 51, and Timothy Kern, 47.
“These were men who were down on their luck or at least were looking for a new chance in life to start all over again in a very difficult and challenging economy,” DeWine said at the time. “These men took advantage of what they thought was an opportunity to have a better life. Tragically, it ended in their death."Unlike Rafferty, Beasley faces the death penalty for the multiple murder charges. He also faces attempted murder, kidnapping, aggravated robbery, theft, identity theft, grand theft and illegal gun possession charges, according to a statement released by the Summit County attorney’s office, which is prosecuting the case with help from the state attorney general’s office.
“This case we view to be one of the worst of the worst when it comes to horrible murder cases,” prosecuting attorney Sherri Bevan Walsh said at the January news conference with DeWine.
A gag order was put in place in July, barring anyone involved in the case from speaking to the media and making the county court documents inaccessible from the court's website.
A county court official said 206 potential jurors gathered for a briefing at the Akron Civic Theater on Tuesday morning because the county courthouse didn’t have a room big enough.
Opening statements are due to start next week after the jury selection is completed.