AKRON, Ohio -- Opening statements were delivered Friday in the murder trial of Brogan Rafferty, 17, who is accused of being an accomplice in the murders of three men and the attempted murder of a fourth in what have become known as the 'Craigslist Murders.'
Rafferty faces multiple charges including aggravated murder, aggravated robbery and grand theft. The charges stem from the murders of David Pauley, Ralf Geiger and Tim Kern, who are believed to have been shot and killed by co-defendant Richard Beasley while answering a Craigslist ad for employment as a farm hand on a rural property in Caldwell, Ohio.
A fourth man, Scott Davis, escaped testified during the trial.
Rafferty is accused of helping Beasley by digging holes for the bodies, helping to conceal the bodies, and driving the car to the crime scenes where he was aware of what Beasley was doing.
Although a 16-year-old juvenile at the time, Rafferty is being tried as an adult.
In opening statements on Friday, Special Prosecutor Emily Pelphrey, from the Ohio Attorney General's Office, called Rafferty "a student in the art of robbery, deception and murder."
"David Pauley, Ralf Geiger, Tim Kern and Scott Davis; those four are the victims in this case," Pelphrey told the jury.
"All of them were looking for their new shot, for their light at the end of the tunnel. In these tough economic times they were looking for a job. They all thought that their luck was about to change. Only one person was lucky; that was Scott Davis. He got away. He escaped the dark tunnel," said Pelphrey.
"I want you to shift your focus from this Craigslist killer, shift your focus to Brogran Rafferty. Focus on his involvement in the murder of three victims and the attempted murder of another victim. What are the choices that he made. More importantly, what are the choices that he did not make," added the prosecutor.
"You are not going to hear remorse, plain and simple. What you are going to hear is that Brogan Rafferty knew Richard Beasley; knew him for years, looked up to him as a father figure. You are going to see writings by the defendant that describe the death of Ralph Geiger. You are going to hear about the months from August through November."
"You are going to hear that during these three trips down to Caldwell, Ohio, that one man escaped murder and three others ended up in shallow graves," continued Pelphrey.
Jurors were shown a transcript of a statement Rafferty made to police on Nov. 23, 2011, regarding the murder of Timothy Kern, who was killed in Summit County and buried in a wooded area near the Chapel Hill Mall.
In that statement Rafferty told police: "And we had to drag him around a coupe of branches. And we put him in the hole. And I don't think he quite fit because the hole was a real pain to dig."
"Brogan Rafferty had chance after chance after chance and he made his choices. He made the choices that he wanted to make. He chose to get in that vehicle with Richard Beasley each time, chose to stay the night, chose to dig holes, chose to help put bodies in those holes, he chose to do that over the course of August to November," added Pelphrey.
"He made off with some of the loot," she concluded. "What those men brought with them to start their new life, he took home."
Rafferty's attorneys are claiming 'duress' as the reason their client helped Beasley.
In his opening statements Defense Attorney John Alexander called Rafferty "a 16-year-old child trapped in a situation he didn't know how to get out of."
Alexander described Rafferty as a "good kid" who had never been in any trouble before. He said that while prosecutors will portray Rafferty as a monster, "there is a monster in this case, but that monster is not Brogan Rafferty, that monster is Richard Beasley."
Alexander told the jury that Rafferty's family had befriended Beasley when Rafferty was very young and that they trusted him. He told the jury that Rafferty's father allowed the teen to spend weekends with Beasley because he believed Beasley to be a devout Christian who wanted to take his son with him to church.
Alexander said Rafferty had no idea what Beasley intended to do when he first took Ralph Geiger to the Caldwell, Ohio, property, put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
"Within those two seconds, Brogan's entire world just got turned upside down," said Alexander. "Here is this man who was his mentor ... someone he could trust. He just turned into his worst nightmare in two seconds."
Alexander said from that moment on Rafferty cooperated with Beasley because he "felt he had no choice other than to do what this man says. He has no idea if he is going to be killed."
"There's absolutely no doubt that he would kill Brogan and his family if he doesn't do what he is told," said Alexander.
"From the moment (Beasley) pulled that gun out and killed Ralph Geiger, virtually every decision (Rafferty) made was to protect himself and his family," added Alexander.
"When he's digging these holes, he doesn't know who he is digging the holes for," Alexander told the jury, saying that Rafferty didn't know if the holes he was digging would be for himself.
Alexander told the jury that Beasley used Rafferty because he knew he could be easily manipulated, concluding that "Brogan Rafferty never wanted to be a part of this."
Following opening statements, prosecutors called Scott Davis, the lone survivor of the so-called 'Craigslist Murders.'
Davis, 49, identified an e-mail written about a job he applied for to work on a cattle ranch in southern Ohio. Davis testified that he was living in South Carolina at the time and that he loaded his belongings onto a trailer intending to move to Ohio to take the job because he wanted to be closer to his mother.
Davis testified about driving to Ohio where he met with Beasley about the job. He identified a photograph taken from a surveillance camera at a Shoney's restaurant in Marietta, Ohio, about a half hour from Caldwell, Ohio.
He said the older man who he met with identified himself as "Jack" and told him the younger man who was with him was his nephew.
He said he parked his truck at a food mart in Caldwell then got in a white car with the two men who told him his truck would not fit down the rural road where they were going. Davis said he got in the back seat and that the younger man identified as 'the nephew' was driving.
"They said we had to go down there and repair some roads," Davis testified.
"Did you think that was going to be a part of your job duty?" asked Pelfrey.
"No, but I was there," answered Davis.
Davis testified that he was taken to a rural area that he described as having a lot of farmland. He said he also saw a lot of cattle. At one point, however, he said the scenery changed and they started driving into a more wooded area.
Davis testified that at one point the 'nephew' stopped the car "because Jack told him to." He said it was a place where they said "he got the deer last week."
Davis said he and 'Jack' then got out of the car while the 'nephew' drove away.
Davis said 'Jack' told him they were going to 'take the roadway.'
"Whenever we turned around and said we was going to go back to the road I heard a cuss word and a gun cock," testified Davis.
"What went through your head?" asked Pelfrey.
"I knew I was in trouble," said Davis, adding, "I spun around."
When prompted, Davis explained he was shot in his elbow.
"At that point I was just freaking out," said Davis.
"Did you run away?" asked the prosecutor.
"As fast as I could but I kept falling down," said Davis, who testified he kept tripping over rocks and tree limbs.
"What was 'Jack' doing?" the prosecutor asked.
"He continued to fire at me," said Davis.
"Where did you go when you started to run?" asked Pelfrey.
"I ran out of the woods and ran on the road," answered Davis.
"As you are running up the road was 'Jack' chasing you?" asked the prosecutor.
"He was to a point," answered Davis. "I just continued running and found a place to hide."
Davis explained he hid down along a creek bed underneath a tree and that his arm was bleeding. He said it took probably about a half hour for him to settle down.
He testified that he heard people going by. He said he heard the noise from the car he had just gotten out of, describing it as very loud.
"How long do you think you were hiding in the woods?" asked Pelfrey.
"I was there for seven hours," answered Davis.
"At some point did you make a decision to leave the woods?" he was asked.
"Yes," said Davis who explained he was "worried about bleeding to death."
Davis testified that he eventually made his way out of the woods walking the same road on which he had entered the property and that he had found a home where he felt the people there might be 'friendly.'
He testified that "the lady called 911 and several deputies arrived within 10 to 15 minutes."
He testified that he was transported to Akron General Medical Center where he remained for five days where they took a bullet out of his arm.
While there, he said FBI agents came to speak with him but he had just got out of an operating room and it was a bad time.
He said he talked with them again about two days after he got out of the hospital. The agents showed him several photos of "young men and some older men."
He said he was able to identify a photo of the younger man, saying it was the same young man he had met at Shoney's
"Do you recognize that man today?" asked Pelfrey.
"I certainly do!" said Davis.
Davis identified that man as Brogan Rafferty.
Under cross-examination by defense attorneys, Davis testified that he later learned the man he knew as 'Jack' was actually Richard Beasley.
Davis also testified that it did appear the younger man was only doing what 'Jack' told him to do.