AKRON, Ohio (AP) — The alleged triggerman in the killings of three men lured by phony Craigslist job offers testified at his trial Wednesday, telling an Ohio jury he's innocent and had actually been targeted by one alleged victim who survived.
Richard Beasley could face the death penalty if he's convicted of the killings on a southeastern Ohio farm where he allegedly shot three men who responded to online job ads.
"I had no idea that somebody, anybody, had been killed down on that farm. I had no way to know," Richard Beasley, 53, testified at his murder trial.
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.
Beasley, a self-styled street preacher and mentor to a co-defendant convicted and sentenced to life in prison, said that he met with the surviving victim, Scott Davis, but testified that Davis was the one who pulled a gun.
"It misfired three times about two feet from my face and I ran into the woods and he ran after me," said Beasley, facing the jury and dressed in dark suit. He also claimed that the two wrestled on the muddy ground and Davis ended up firing six shots.
"I said, 'That's your six,' so if he was going to kill me, he was going to have to do it with his hands," Beasley testified.
Davis, who was the star witness at co-defendant Brogan Rafferty's trial, also testified against Beasley. Davis testified that he fled into the woods in Noble County, about 60 miles east of Columbus, after hearing the click of a handgun, getting shot in the arm, and pushing the weapon aside.
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.
The Akron Beacon Journal reported Beasley stepped to the witness stand from a wheelchair, which he uses for back problems, and testified in a calm, even voice.
His testimony came after the prosecution rested its case without calling the 18-year-old Rafferty, who had been subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution.
There was no explanation why he didn't testify. Attorneys are under a gag order.
The judge expects to handle exhibit issues on Thursday and have closing statements by Monday. She previously said Friday would be an off day for the trial.
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.
Brogan was under 18 at the time of the crimes and was ineligible for the death penalty.