CALDWELL, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio teenager charged with attempted murder in a scheme authorities say lured Craigslist job-seekers into lethal robberies is not a monster, but a “scared little boy,” his mother says.
The 16-year-old high school student from Akron was questioned by the FBI and arrested Nov. 16 after a South Carolina man said he answered the ad seeking a farm hand, was shot in the arm and escaped from the woods of southeastern Ohio.
A judge in Noble County, 90 miles south of Akron, is expected to decide Tuesday afternoon whether the boy will be tried as an adult.
The Noble County prosecutor has asked that the boy be transferred to an adult court. The Associated Press generally does not identify juvenile suspects and is not naming the teenager or his mother.
Meanwhile, a 52-year-old man said to have acted as a mentor to the teen remains in jail on unrelated prostitution charges.
Richard Beasley’s mother says her son would take the teen to church almost weekly, go fishing, play video games and involve him in volunteer work.
The teenager’s mother paints another picture of Beasley — that of a man who threatened her son and who once said that he knew where the teen lived and that “I know where your mother lives.”
Police believe two deaths are connected to the Craigslist scam but haven’t said whether another body found Friday is linked to it. A fourth man who said he answered the same ad survived a shooting, while a fifth man says he interviewed with Beasley for the fake job as a farm hand but decided not to take it.
“Richard was always a very giving person,” Beasley’s mother, Carol Beasley, has said. “He reached out and helped a lot of people.”
Messages were left with Beasley’s attorney seeking comment.
Beasley has a criminal record dating to the 1980s. He was convicted in Texas of burglary and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1985, sentenced to a 40-year prison sentence and placed on parole for 34 years in 1989. Previous charges in Ohio include aggravated menacing, tampering with evidence, possession of criminal tools and illegal cultivation of marijuana, court records show.
Following Beasley’s return to Akron in 2003, he ran a halfway house, helped deliver food to the poor and vouched for fellow offenders, telling judges they had changed their ways, the Akron Beacon Journal reported over the weekend.
Police say the halfway house was a front for prostitution, the newspaper reported, and Beasley was awaiting trial on prostitution and drug charges when authorities took him into custody this month.
The teen appears to be placing blame on Beasley, his attorney told the newspaper.
Beasley’s mother has said that her son had taken the boy to The Chapel, an Akron megachurch, since he was 7 or 8 years old, according to WEWS-TV of Cleveland, and that they did volunteer work together, such as delivering food to the needy.
“The most I can say is, this is just a big shock to us,” Carol Beasley has said. “I pray it’s some other person and not him.”
A church spokeswoman said Beasley had no involvement with youth activities at the church and that while his mother had long attended services, Beasley showed up only sporadically.
Beasley was not sanctioned through The Chapel, Tammy Kennedy, the executive assistant to the senior and executive pastors of The Chapel, told ABC News.
The events leading to the arrest of Beasley and the teen began Nov. 6, when a South Carolina man who answered the ad was shot in Noble County before escaping, hiding in the woods for hours and then hiking to a farmhouse in the dark, police say. The body of Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley, 51, was found the following week.
Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found buried Friday near an Akron-area shopping mall. He had been shot in the head. A third body was found Friday not far from where Pauley’s was buried in a hand-dug grave.
The farm advertised on Craigslist does not exist; the remote Noble County area where Pauley’s body and one other were found is property owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters.
The teenager, a junior at Stow Munroe City Schools about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, was questioned at school Nov. 16, then arrested at home that day, school spokeswoman Jacquie Mazziotta said Monday.
He has been warned he will face trial as an adult and could face more than 40 years in prison, his mother told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday from her home in the Akron area.
She stopped short of saying he provided the tip that led to the discovery of the Akron-area body but said he “has told everything he knows.”
“He’s a scared little boy,” she said.
Sheeran reported from Cleveland.