COLUMBUS, Ohio – The promise of a farm job used to lure victims in a deadly Craigslist robbery scheme would have been the perfect fit for Ralph Geiger, a handyman who grew up with pets and was around animals his entire life, his brother said Wednesday.
Mark Geiger said he'd grown worried in recent months after not hearing from his brother, then called police after hearing his brother's name in media reports last week. He said FBI agents told him that his brother was probably one of three men killed in the Craigslist plot.
"That type of job would have appealed to him," Geiger said in a phone interview. "He always loved animals, loved working with them."
A death certificate shows 55-year-old Ralph Geiger died around Aug. 9, weeks before the suspected killings of two other men and the wounding of a third.
The day before, he left an Akron homeless shelter where he'd been staying since February, saying he was taking a farm job in Dover, said the Rev. Jeff Kaiser, executive director of Haven of Hope.
Dover is about 45 miles south of Akron off Interstate 77 and about 60 miles north of Caldwell, where Geiger's body was found. Authorities, who are under a judge's gag order, have never mentioned a job in Dover.
Mark Geiger said he doesn't believe a Craigslist ad offering the nonexistent job in rural southeastern Ohio had been posted when his brother was killed. He doesn't know how his brother might have found out about the promised job, speculating he might have seen it through some type of employment bureau.
"The type of ad that there was, is exactly the type of thing that he would have responded to," said Geiger, 59, a cable TV engineer with Cox Communications in Atlanta.
Police are holding two suspects in the case: 52-year-old Richard Beasley, a Texas parolee living in Akron, who is jailed without bond on unrelated drug and prostitution charges. The Summit County prosecutor says she plans to charge Beasley with murder and attempted murder counts and that he could face the death penalty.
A 16-year-old, Brogan Rafferty, faces juvenile charges of aggravated murder and complicity to aggravated murder in the case and is expected to be transferred to adult court after a hearing next week.
Police have linked the Oct. 23 death of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., and the death of Timothy Kern, 48, of Massillon, whose body was found near an Akron shopping mall Nov. 25, to the Craigslist scheme. They also have linked the suspects to the Nov. 6 shooting of Scott Davis, a 48-year-old South Carolina man who escaped and first tipped off authorities to the scheme.
Beasley, a self-styled chaplain who mentored Rafferty, worked with the down and out in Akron.
In a four-page handwritten letter to the Akron Beacon Journal, Beasley has said he has been miscast as a con man when he had helped feed, house and counsel scores of needy families, drunks, drug addicts, the mentally ill and crime suspects for years.
Ralph Geiger had worked most recently doing maintenance at a trailer park, his brother said. Friends said he had left to take a farm job.
"Could he have run into Beasley somewhere?" Mark Geiger said. "Absolutely, but I don't have any clue how they found him."
Geiger stayed in a room with nine other men, sleeping on the bottom bed of a two-person bunk bed, Kaiser said. He was a hard worker liked by shelter staff and other residents.
Ralph Geiger lived and worked in and around Los Angeles in the 1980s and 1990s, at times keeping chickens, goats and other animals, his brother said. He did antique restoration work and helped restore items after fires and floods. He returned to Akron, where he grew up, as their mother's health deteriorated in the 1990s.
Mark Geiger said he talked to his brother on his birthday in June, but grew concerned after Ralph didn't call, as was his practice, on Mark's and their sister's birthdays over the next few months.
Then came the name in news reports and the call to police.
"He always wanted to be on his own. He always wanted to take care of himself," Mark Geiger said. "He wasn't looking for somebody to do that for him."
Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.