AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - A man lured to Ohio by a phony Craigslist job ad testified on Friday that a teenager charged with trying to kill him waited in a car while an accomplice walked into a heavily wooded area with the victim and shot him last November.
“I heard a curse word. I heard a gun cock. I knew I was in trouble,” Scott Davis, 49, testified as the first witness called by prosecutors in the trial of Brogan Rafferty.
Rafferty, 17, and Richard Beasley, 53, are charged with the aggravated murders of three men found buried in shallow graves around Ohio last year. Beasley faces the death penalty in a separate trial expected to begin in January.
The teenager, who was 16 when he was arrested and is being tried as an adult, faces up to life in prison if convicted of killing David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.
Davis told jurors he sold a landscaping business in South Carolina to move closer to his parents in Ohio and met Rafferty and Beasley when he responded to an ad for a farm hand.
He spun around when he heard the cocking sound, saw a gun pointed at his face and was shot in the right elbow as he tried to push the gun away, Davis said.
“I ran as fast as I could but I kept falling down,” Davis said. “He continued to fire at me as I ran out of the woods and out into the road.”
Davis said he hid in a partially dried up creek bed listening for Rafferty’s car and walked for help hours later, still badly bleeding, as it got dark. The bullet was surgically removed and he spent five days in the hospital.
When asked if Rafferty seemed to be under duress when he met him, Davis said: “He didn’t look nervous or scared.”
In opening statements on Friday, prosecutors described Rafferty as an “apt pupil” who chose to help Beasley kill and bury the men, while defense attorneys said he was the victim of a broken home and abusive father/son relationship with Beasley.
“You will hear a lot of things but what you will not hear from him is remorse,” Special Summit County Assistant Prosecutor Emily Pelphrey told jurors.
Prosecutors displayed pictures of the three men killed and a timeline of when they answered the ad, were killed and when their bodies were recovered.
“All of these men were looking for a new shot, a fresh start and they thought that their luck was about to change,” she said.
Rafferty’s attorney, John Alexander, told jurors the teen, who wore a green golf shirt and khakis, did not know how to get out of the relationship with Beasley and was shattered when he saw Beasley shoot Geiger in the back of the head in August 2011.
“There is a monster in this case and that monster is not Brogan Rafferty,” Alexander said. “The monster in this case is Richard Beasley.”
The Ohio case is one of a series across the nation involving perpetrators who either found victims through the Craigslist website or other social media sites, or used the Internet for criminal purposes.
A man was arrested in Texas in March and charged with people-smuggling for allegedly using Craigslist to recruit drivers for a scheme to transport illegal immigrants.
In 2009, a former medical student was accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist and police believe a serial killer, or killers, in the New York area may be preying on prostitutes who advertised on the site.
In other incidents, victims advertising goods for sale have been attacked and killed as have those responding to ads. Two men in Tennessee were accused last month of killing a man and a woman for “defriending” the daughter of one of the suspects on Facebook.
The Ohio trial before Judge Lynne Callahan is set to resume on Monday and could last six weeks.
Editing by David Bailey; Greg McCune and Todd Eastham