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Jury has case in Ohio's Craigslist killings

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[March 12, 2013]  AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- Jurors must decide if the alleged triggerman charged with killing three men in Ohio by luring them with Craigslist job offers was a masterful manipulator or the target of investigators.

The jury in the case against Richard Beasley, 53, was scheduled for its first full day of deliberations Tuesday. Jurors got the case late Monday and deliberated into the evening as the judge suggested.

The jury will be sequestered in a hotel each night until reaching a verdict.

If Beasley is convicted of aggravated murder, the same jury will return later to consider whether to recommend the death penalty.

His 18-year-old co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without chance of parole. Brogan was under 18 at the time of the crimes and was ineligible for the death penalty.

In closing arguments Monday, prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel repeatedly mentioned the three victims and a fourth job-seeker who survived an attack, and told jurors there was no reasonable doubt that Beasley plotted the killings.

"They were desperate for a better life," Baumoel said. "They wanted a second chance."

Baumoel presented three possible theories for aggravated murder -- planning the crimes or killings done with a kidnapping or a robbery involved.

"This was clearly with prior calculation and design," a component of the death penalty aggravated murder charge, Baumoel said. "He was the mastermind behind this plot."

In the defense response, attorney James Burdon attacked the prosecution's identity theft and robbery motives.

Beasley was using one victim's ID before the man was killed, Burdon said. "He didn't have to lure him to southern Ohio to kill him," Burdon said.

Burdon said the victims had little to steal and suggested that such a circumstance undercut the prosecution's robbery motive.

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According to Burdon, Beasley was targeted by prosecutors because he posted the jobs offers for someone else. He called targeting Beasley a "hunch" by investigators.

Beasley denied involvement in the 2011 attacks and said that the lone survivor was sent to kill him in retaliation for being a police snitch in a motorcycle gang investigation in Akron.

Prosecutors said Beasley and Brogan used the job postings as bait in a robbery plot aimed at down-on-their-luck victims with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance. The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon.

Rafferty has said the crimes were horrible but he didn't see any chance to stop the killings. Rafferty said he feared Beasley would kill him and his relatives if he tipped off police.

Beasley testified that he met with the surviving victim, Scott Davis, but said Davis was the one who pulled a gun in retaliation for Beasley's role as a police informant.

Davis, who was the star witness at Rafferty's trial, also testified against Beasley.

[Associated Press; By THOMAS J. SHEERAN]

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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