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Former preacher found guilty in Craigslist murder case

Accused Craigslist killer Richard James Beasley in an undated photo released by the Summit County Sheriff's Office. REUTERS/Summit County Sh
Accused Craigslist killer Richard James Beasley in an undated photo released by the Summit County Sheriff's Office. REUTERS/Summit County Sh

By Kim Palmer

AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - An Ohio street preacher was found guilty on Tuesday of murdering three down-on-their-luck men who answered an ad for a non-existent job on Craigslist in 2011.

A jury deliberated for about 12 hours before returning the verdict against Richard Beasley, 53, who was accused of kidnapping and murdering David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.

The jury convicted Beasley of aggravated murder and kidnapping in the deaths of all three men.

It also convicted him of the attempted murder of Scott Davis, a South Carolina man who answered the Craigslist ad and was shot in the arm while escaping after meeting Beasley and his teenage accomplice, Brogan Rafferty.

Rafferty, 18, was tried as an adult and sentenced in November to life in prison without parole for his role in the deadly scheme. He was 16 years old at the time of the crimes and not subject to the death penalty.

Richard Beasley was found guilty on all counts including aggravated murder, aggravated attempted murder, aggravated robbery, grand and petty theft and ID theft.

Beasley, wearing a dark sport coat and tie and sitting in his wheelchair, slumped visibly as the verdicts were read and held his head in his hands.

The jurors, who got Beasley's case late on Monday, will reconvene on March 20 to begin to consider whether to recommend the death penalty.

Beasley, who testified in his own defense, denied any involvement in the killings. He said Davis, who was 48 when he was shot and became a key prosecution witness during the trial, had been sent to kill him by a motorcycle gang he was infiltrating for the police as a confidential informant.

Prosecutors maintained that Beasley, an ex-convict and former street preacher, was the mastermind and triggerman in the scheme. They said Beasley wanted to rob his victims and steal their identities.

Summer Rowley, a friend of Ralph Geiger, said she was satisfied with Tuesday's verdict but less interested in the possibility of a death sentence in the case.

"It doesn't matter to me," she said. It won't bring him back."

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Writing by James Kelleher; Editing by Greg McCune, Cynthia Johnston and Phil Berlowitz)

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