The man who testified that he ran for his life and escaped after being shot in the elbow by Richard Beasley is expected to be the government’s chief witness in Beasley’s capital murder trial.
Scott Davis, the lone survivor in the so-called Craigslist slayings, has been subpoenaed to testify, court records show.
Davis was the prosecution’s first witness in last year’s trial of Beasley’s co-defendant — 17-year-old Brogan Rafferty of Stow. At that trial, he described the chilling circumstances of how he was shot, yet managed to get away.
Beasley, 53, of Akron is charged with three counts of aggravated murder — each carrying a death penalty specification — and other crimes for the shooting deaths of three men and the attempted murder of Davis in 2011.
The trial begins Tuesday with jury selection in a most unusual place — the Akron Civic Theatre.
Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan, who is handling the case, said the process, expected to take at least five days, will begin with initial questioning of 230 potential jurors.
The Civic was chosen, the judge said, because the county courthouse has no room or area spacious enough to accommodate that many people.
In December, Callahan directed the jury commission to draw the names of 500 Summit County voters for the jury pool.
That number was whittled during two pretrial hearings to review prospective juror excuses, the case docket shows.
Callahan issued an order months ago prohibiting all parties from commenting on the Craigslist case outside court proceedings.
Although opening statements and testimony are not expected to begin until next week, the lone survivor, Davis, is expected to again set the tone and, as he did in Rafferty’s trial, place Beasley at the scene of the murders.
Three men who answered the Craigslist ads for a nonexistent farm job in Noble County in southern Ohio were killed between August and November 2011.
All four men, including Davis, were down on their luck and were “looking for light at the end of the tunnel,” a special prosecutor said in opening statements at Rafferty’s trial.
The job supposedly was on 600-plus acres and paid $300 per week with a two-bedroom trailer.
Emily Pelphrey, a special prosecutor for the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, opened Rafferty’s trial telling jurors the victims “all thought their luck was about to change,” but were caught totally unaware in a plot hatched by Beasley and Rafferty.
Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, was the first murder victim. He was shot Aug. 9, 2011, execution style, and his body was found buried in a hole in Noble County on Nov. 25.
David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was the next victim. He was killed Oct. 23, in the same cold-blooded pattern. His body was buried in a shallow grave and was discovered in Noble County three weeks later.
Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was the last victim. He died of multiple gunshots to the head and was buried in a wooded area behind the Rolling Acres Mall. His body, also buried in a shallow grave, was found by authorities on the same day as Geiger’s.
In what might have been the most tension-packed moment of the Rafferty trial, Davis told the jury he escaped only because the gun used failed momentarily.
As the two were walking through the woods on the bogus farm property, Davis said he heard “a cuss word and a gun cock” from behind, where Beasley was walking.
“I knew I was in trouble,” Davis told the jury.
After being shot in the elbow, Davis said he started running as fast as he could and finally wound up hiding behind a tree.
Authorities were alerted in a 911 call after Davis calmed himself and found a home about three miles away.
Rafferty was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder and sentenced by Callahan to life in prison with no chance of parole.
He, too, has been subpoenaed to testify against Beasley.
Assistant Summit Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel is a co-counsel in the state’s case.
James L. Burdon, long considered one of Akron’s top defense lawyers, is Beasley’s lead counsel. Lawrence J. Whitney is co-counsel.
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.