COLUMBUS, Ohio – A man suspected of being the third fatal victim of a deadly Craigslist robbery scheme died in August, weeks before the suspected killings of two other victims, according to the man's death certificate.
The body of Ralph Geiger was discovered Nov. 25 in Noble County in rural southeastern Ohio during an investigation into two other deaths and the wounding of a fourth man.
Noble County Coroner Alan Spencer lists Geiger's date of death as around Aug. 9, according to a copy of Geiger's death certificate obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press.
Authorities believe the other victims were killed in October and November.
Police have identified the suspects as a 16-year-old high school student and a 52-year-old self-styled preacher.
The scheme lured jobseekers to Noble County with a phony ad for work on a 688-acre cattle farm. The farm didn't exist and the property where the body of Geiger and David Pauley were found is owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters.
The scheme targeted single and older out-of-work men whose backgrounds made it likely their disappearances wouldn't be noticed right away.
Geiger, 55, of Atlanta, never married, according to his death certificate. Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was divorced and living with his brother and desperate for work when he answered the ad, according to a friend.
Pauley died Oct. 23 of a gunshot wound to the head, and his body was found Nov. 15 close to where Geiger's body would be found.
Timothy Kern, 47, of Akron, was last seen Nov. 17 after leaving for Akron to drop off his car and be taken to the fake farm. He was divorced and took the job to help support his three sons. His body was found near an Akron shopping mall on Nov. 29.
A memorial service for Kern was scheduled for Tuesday evening at a funeral home in Massillon in northeast Ohio, where he lived. The 6:30 p.m. ceremony will follow an hour of visitation.
Suspect Richard Beasley, 52, will be tried in Summit County and could face the death penalty. He has denied involvement in the slayings.
The other suspect, Brogan Rafferty, 16, currently faces juvenile charges of aggravated murder and complicity to aggravated murder and is expected to be transferred to adult court next week.
He made his first public court appearance last week but didn't speak. His mother, Yvette Rafferty, said she was "praying for the families and the victims."
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.