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Ohio teen gets life, no parole, in Craigslist killings

AKRON, Ohio — Brogan Rafferty’s confession to the Craigslist killings continued to haunt him as the Stow, Ohio, teen was sentenced to prison with no chance of parole.

His confession to the slayings of three men about a year ago was given in lieu of a chance of parole after 26 years and his pledge to testify against his co-defendant. The deal died.

Just this week, prosecutors offered him another deal, one in which Rafferty could seek freedom after 30 years. Rafferty took it, but that deal was pulled with no comment from the state in court.

So with no agreement in place, the 17-year-old stood like a wide-eyed target before Summit County Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan, facing three aggravated murder convictions and an assortment of other charges.

Although appearing emotional at times, the judge hammered Rafferty with a no-parole sentence that would - if it withstands a constitutional challenge - guarantee that Rafferty dies behind bars.

Callahan said she didn’t buy Rafferty’s claim that he aided Richard Beasley, 53, his so-called spiritual mentor, only out of fear. Instead, she called his actions “cold, calculated and methodical.”

Defense attorneys John Alexander, Ed Smith and Jill Flagg pledged to appeal Rafferty’s conviction in the slayings of three men and the attempted killing of a fourth.

They reiterated Friday that Rafferty, before being sentenced, was still willing to testify against Beasley.

Prosecutors are seeking a death sentence for Beasley, who they claim conceived the Craigslist plot to lure three men to their deaths. Beasley is set for trial in January.

Rafferty’s testimony would have put Beasley behind the trigger of all three killings, something prosecutors currently lack in terms of eyewitness testimony.

Alexander criticized prosecutors for requesting such a harsh sentence despite previously agreeing for half the time.

Alexander also took exception to Assistant County Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel criticizing Rafferty for taking his case to trial and forcing family members to listen to horrific details.

Alexander said the original deal struck in Noble County fell apart because of conduct of Rafferty’s former court-appointed attorney, Jack Blakeslee. He said Blakeslee would not talk with Rafferty’s parents about the deal and the agreement fell apart.

Despite the collapsed deal, Callahan allowed jurors to hear the confession Rafferty gave. That pretrial ruling will likely serve as the heart of Rafferty’s appeal.

The appeal will also focus on Callahan’s sentence, which appears to conflict with a June ruling handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court that found no-parole sentences for juveniles, even in murder cases, to be unconstitutional.

After family and friends of the four victims spoke in court, Baumoel asked Callahan to sentence Rafferty to life in prison with parole possible after 72 years.

Baumoel noted Rafferty’s cooperation in helping police locate the bodies of Timothy Kern and Ralph Geiger.

“But that cooperation has limits,” he told the judge.

He said Rafferty and Beasley “engaged in a cold-blooded, systematic approach to the execution of three men and the attempted execution of a fourth.” He added that Rafferty refused to accept responsibility for his role and forced a trial at the expense of the victims’ survivors.

Alexander offered harsh words to prosecutors with direct comments on both failed sentencing deals. He blamed prosecutors for forcing the trial.

“To say that Brogan wouldn’t accept responsibility . is simply not true,” he said.

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Alexander said no plea deals were offered before Rafferty’s trial. He said prosecutors came to him afterward offering the 30-years-to-life deal, which had the approval of the victims’ families.

“For them to stand up and ask for max consecutive sentences when on Monday they felt 30 to life was justifiable, is disingenuous,” Alexander said.

Prosecutors contend Beasley created the bogus help-wanted advertisement last year to lure down-on-their-luck men to their deaths. The job listing promised a salary and place to live in rural Noble County.

Three men died and a fourth was shot during a three-month span between August and November 2011. Rafferty contends he helped Beasley, a family friend, out of fear of the self-proclaimed religious man. Jurors didn’t believe the claim and said Rafferty could have sought help instead of helping Beasley by digging the graves for the victims.

Geiger, 56, of Akron, was killed Aug. 9, 2011. His body was found in Noble County in November, the same day the body of Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found in a wooded area near Rolling Acres Mall in Akron.

Authorities believe Kern was killed Nov. 13 and David Pauley on Oct. 23.

The scheme did not come to the attention of law enforcement until Scott Davis, 48, of South Carolina, was shot Nov. 6 while touring the property.

— Akron Beacon Journal

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