Story highlights

Richard Beasley, 52, is accused of shooting four men who answered a Craigslist ad

Three of the men were killed; the fourth was wounded

A teenager also is accused in the case

CNN —  

The accused trigger man in the slayings of three men who answered a Craigslist ad for work on a cattle farm pleaded not guilty Wednesday, officials in Ohio said.

The reading of the 28-page indictment against Richard Beasley, 52, took nearly an hour, said April Wiesner, director of communications for the Summit County prosecutor’s office. An attorney entered the plea on behalf of Beasley, who appeared via a video link.

Beasley faces multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery as well as a host of other charges, according to indictment.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled for February 8.

Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio; were found dead in separate shallow graves after they responded to an online ad soliciting workers between August and November of last year, authorities have said.

Ohio prosecutors are asking that a teenager be tried as an adult in connection with the three killings and the wounding of a fourth man.

Brogan Rafferty, 17, of Stow, Ohio, had a preliminary hearing Monday. A probable cause hearing on whether to bind him over to adult court has not been scheduled, Wiesner said.

The high school sophomore is charged with three counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, and robbery and kidnapping, according to Wiesner.

Rafferty has entered a not guilty plea.

His father, Michael, told Cleveland affiliate WJW in late November that his son had been “manipulated” and “corrupted,” insisting that the teenager is a “mild-mannered gentleman.”

The father also said that his son unwittingly dug the graves at Beasley’s direction, WJW reported.

The indictment calls Beasley the “principal offender” in the killings, Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh said.

He could be eligible for the death penalty if he is convicted, because the killings appear to meet one or more requirements for that sentence, including purposely causing the death of two or more people and murdering people while a fugitive, committing a kidnapping and/or committing armed robbery. Prosecutors said they would pursue the death penalty if there were an aggravated murder conviction.

The investigation into the killings began the night of November 6, when a Noble County deputy sheriff responding to a call came upon a “white, middle-aged man being treated for a gunshot wound to the right arm,” according to Sheriff Stephen S. Hannum of Noble County.

The wounded man – who was identified in the indictment as Scott Davis, 48, from South Carolina – told the law enforcement officer that he had answered an ad on the Craigslist website offering work caring for cattle on a 688-acre property in eastern Ohio.

He met with two males, including Beasley, and drove with them toward Stock Township, Ohio. After being told a road was closed due to a landslide, Davis got out of the car to start walking toward the property, which he was told was nearby.

Davis told the sheriff that, while walking through a heavily wooded area, he turned around “to see a gun pointed at his head. He deflected the gun and ran” – getting shot in the arm while fleeing, the sheriff explained late last year. The victim hid for seven hours in the forest before going to a house and requesting help, Hannum said

The third victim, Kern, was killed one week after Davis’ escape, according to authorities.

One of the shooting victims was found in Summit County and the others in Noble County. The attorney general’s office and local jurisdictions decided to consolidate the cases in Summit County.