Suspect in Ohio Craigslist case pleads not guilty

AKRON, Ohio (AP) ? A self-styled chaplain suspected in a deadly Craigslist robbery scheme pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges including aggravated murder and kidnapping.

An attorney for Richard Beasley, 52, entered the plea on his behalf as his client hid his face in his arms during his arraignment by video hookup from jail.

Beasley, only his head, shoulders and arms showing on the screen, asked about news cameras in the courtroom. “I’m worried about contaminating a jury pool,” Beasley said without looking up.

Magistrate John Shoemaker asked Beasley to briefly show his face to confirm his identity but then agreed to let the defense attorney and prosecutor confirm who it was.

Beasley refused to skip the reading of the indictment, a routine move that speeds up the case. Two prosecutors spent more than 55 minutes taking turns reading the indictment and its numerous death penalty specifications.

Beasley has been held without bond and Shoemaker continued that arrangement. Beasley’s count-appointed attorney, Brian Pierce, said he might take up the issue of pretrial release on bond with trial Judge Lynne Callahan.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Feb. 8.

Beasley is accused of killing three men and wounding a fourth and could face the death penalty if convicted.

A 17-year-old co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, has pleaded not guilty to juvenile counts brought against him Friday. Rafferty was a student at Stow-Munroe Falls High School in suburban Akron when he was arrested in the fall.

Rafferty was charged with three counts of aggravated murder, one count of attempted murder, four counts of aggravated robbery and four counts of kidnapping, Summit County prosecutor’s spokeswoman April Wiesner said.

Two men were shot and killed and a third was shot but survived and escaped after hiding in woods in Noble County, authorities said. Those shootings happened between Aug. 9 and Nov. 6. A fourth man was killed Nov. 13, and his body was found in Akron.

The victims had answered Craigslist ads for work on a nonexistent cattle farm in rural Noble County in southeast Ohio. The scheme targeted older, single, out-of-work men with backgrounds that made it unlikely their disappearances would be noted right away.

In a four-page handwritten letter to the Akron Beacon Journal, Beasley has said he has been miscast as a con man when he really helped feed, house and counsel scores of needy families, alcoholics, drug addicts, the mentally ill and crime suspects for years.