AKRON– After two weeks of trial, accused Craigslist killer Richard Beasley, 53, awaits a jury verdict on charges that include nine counts of aggravated murder.
The case began with extraordinary measures to identify unbiased jurors from among a pool of 200 candidates.
The twelve who were ultimately chosen heard closing arguments on Monday before starting their deliberations.
Beasley is accused of murdering Ralph Geiger, 56, Timothy Kern, 47, and David Pauley, 51, in 2011.
During his trial, witnesses testified that Beasley helped write a Craigslist help wanted advertisement for a farm hand job in southern Ohio.
Geiger and Pauley were found buried in shallow graves in a wooded area near Caldwell, Ohio in November of 2011.
Authorities got their first tip about the shootings from the man considered to be the lone survivor, Scott Davis.
During his trial, Beasley himself testified that Davis was shot in self defense and that he, Beasley, was actually the victim of an attack in the woods.
Prosecutors began their closing arguments on Monday asking jurors to use their common sense.
“Use your common sense in evaluating the testimony and in evaluating Richard Beasley’s version of what happened,” insisted Assistant Summit County Prosecutor Jon Baumoel.
Baumoel called Beasley the “mastermind” of the Craigslist plot.
“Because Scott Davis got away, this insanity, these horrifying events came to an end. It should be celebrated,” said Baumoel.
“Richard Beasley was not going to stop; he was not going to stop; the killing was not going to stop. He had a thirst for blood. He had a thirst for death,” he continued.
“Ralph Geiger, Scott Davis, Timothy Kern and David Pauley were easy targets and why were they easy targets in this case because they were desperate. They were desperate for a better life. They wanted hope. They wanted a second chance and because of that they were easy prey for a master manipulator,” said Baumoel, telling jurors not to fall prey themselves to Beasley’s manipulative testimony.
Baumoel said Beasley was wanted on a parole violation in Texas and did not want to go back to prison so he killed Ralph Geiger to assume his identity, then killed the others because he needed money to live on.
He called the shooting of Scott Davis just a short distance from where Geiger was buried “the mother of all coincidences.”
“All this in front of you- it all reeks of guilt,” said Baumoel.
Defense Attorney James Burdon, however, argued the testimony of the government’s key witnesses, including Scott Davis is no more credible than that of Richard Beasley.
In his closing arguments, Burdon said that Beasley was in fact hiding from authorities but that Geiger voluntarily offered to let Beasley assume his identity months before his death.
Burdon called the prosecutor’s “thirst for blood” comment “insane.”
“Why would you kill Ralph Geiger? The whole idea of this Craigslist ad was to lure people with property to southern Ohio; that’s their theory: to steal their property. What did Ralph Geiger have? There’s no debate here; Ralph Geiger on August 8 was living at the Haven of Rest. He was ‘down on his luck.’ There was nothing to steal,” argued Burdon.
Burdon said all of the meetings that Beasley had with the applicants for the Craigslist ad were held in busy, public areas where he knew there were cameras watching him, questioning why someone up to no good would want to do that.
Defense attorneys also insisted that there was no scientific evidence that ties Beasley to the murders and there are no actual witnesses.
“No one witnessed the death of Timothy Kern. No one witnessed the death of anyone in this case and the prosecution once again decides to blame Richard Beasley because Richard Beasley, and we know from Richard Beasley, was one of the people that posted the ad on Craigslist.”
Beasley’s jury is deciding his fate over a total of 26 counts that include firearms, kidnapping and other specifications that could get him the death penalty, if he is convicted.