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Ohio Craigslist suspects face trial in home county

A self-styled chaplain and a teenage boy he apparently mentored will be tried in a deadly Craigslist robbery scheme in their home county, about 100 miles from where prosecutors say three of the four crimes happened.

Although two men were killed in Noble County in rural eastern Ohio and a third was shot and wounded there, neither the victims nor the two suspects were from there.

The boy, 16-year-old Brogan Rafferty, was in Summit County Juvenile Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing at which he pleaded not guilty to several juvenile counts brought against him late 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.

Those counts replace charges that Rafferty faced in Noble County before his case was transferred to Summit County.

Rafferty's attorney, John Alexander, said before Monday's hearing that it would involve the review of charges and allow for bond to be discussed.

The other suspect, 52-year-old Akron resident Richard Beasley, who took Rafferty under his wing and sometimes took him to church, was indicted Friday in Summit County on several charges that carry the possibility of the death sentence if he is convicted. He has denied involvement in the Craigslist plot.

Beasley was a Texas parolee when he returned to Ohio in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction. He was released from jail in July after a judge mistakenly allowed him to post bond on a drug-trafficking charge.

In a four-page handwritten letter to the Akron Beacon Journal newspaper, Beasley said he was 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.

"To call me a con man when I sacrificed for others is wrong," wrote Beasley, who didn't mention the Craigslist investigation. "To turn their back on me is not following Christ's example."

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.

One of the victims was from Norfolk, Va. The man who escaped was from South Carolina.

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

Attorney General Mike DeWine has called the crimes "serial killings" and said last week that authorities can't say for certain whether there are more bodies.

The Associated Press generally does not identify juvenile crime suspects, but Rafferty's name has been widely reported by local and national media outlets.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.

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