CLEVELAND - A self-styled chaplain suspected in a deadly scheme to rob people replying to a Craigslist job ad will be charged with murder and attempted murder in attacks on four victims and could face the death penalty, a prosecutor said Monday.
Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said local officials in southeast Ohio and state and federal officials signed off on an agreement to let her office take the lead against Richard Beasley, 52. Three deaths and the wounding of a fourth man are under investigation in a plot to lure victims with the promise of a farm job in southeast Ohio.
"In deciding where and how to try this case, our primary concern was doing what is in the best interest of the victims and their families," said Walsh, who noted that most of the victims are from the Akron-Canton area of northeast Ohio.
Beasley, who has been jailed in Akron on unrelated prostitution and drug charges, has denied involvement in the Craigslist slayings. An email message seeking comment was sent Monday to his attorney handling the drug case.
Beasley was arrested in November after authorities linked him to the alleged plot.
An acquaintance of Beasley's, Brogan Rafferty, 16, of nearby of Stow, faces juvenile charges of aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated murder, attempted murder and complicity to attempted murder in the death of one man and the shooting of another.
Authorities say the first victim of the plot, David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., came to Ohio in mid-October after answering the Craigslist ad. A friend has said Pauley was desperate for work and eager to return to Ohio.
Police say he was killed Oct. 23, and his body was found Nov. 15. Family members had contacted police concerned they hadn't heard from him.
Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, whose body was found buried near an Akron shopping mall, answered the ad and was last seen Nov. 13, authorities said.
The body of Ralph Geiger, the potential third victim, was found in a shallow grave Nov. 25.
A South Carolina man also answered the ad and was shot Nov. 6 before escaping, police say.
Associated Press Legal Affairs Writer Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report