By Barry Neild, The Guardian
Richard Beasley who lured victims to their deaths by posting job ads on Craigslist website could face the death penalty
A US street preacher who lured victims to their deaths by posting job ads on the Craigslist website has been found guilty of aggravated murder and could face the death penalty.
Ex-convict Richard Beasley was accused of the 2011 killings of two men from Ohio and one from Virginia in what prosecutors said was a calculated plot to mastermind their deaths.
He was also found guilty of the attempted murder of a fourth victim from South Carolina who was shot by Beasley but managed to escape.
After delivering its verdict, the jury in Ohio retired to deliberate over whether to recommend the death penalty for Beasley.
Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors that Beasley was the "master manipulator" in a plot he concocted with a 16-year-old high school student. The student, Brogan Rafferty, was last year convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Beasley lured his victims, all down on their luck and with few ties to friends or relatives who might raise the alarm at their disappearance, with bogus job interviews for farmhand jobs.
His victims were Ralph Geiger, 56, David Pauley, 51, and Timothy Kern, 47. The survivor, Scott Davis, testified that he hid, bleeding, in woodland for seven hours after being shot in the arm by Beasley.
After escaping, Davis alerted police who found Pauley's body at the scene of the shooting. Kern's body was later found in a shallow grave near an Ohio shopping mall.
Beasley claimed that Davis had pulled a gun on him and fired six shots during an ensuing fist fight. "I said, 'That's your six,' so if he was going to kill me, he was going to have to do it with his hands," he told the court.
The defendant's lawyers argued that motives of identity theft and robbery offered by investigators were without substance, claiming that Beasley had been targeted on a hunch.
As the verdict was delivered, tearful family members of the victims embraced. Beasley - who also was convicted of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder - slumped in his wheelchair as his mother leaned over and sobbed.
Watch the verdict, broadcast by WSYX in Akron, Ohio on March 12.
Watch an interview with Beasley's mother, broadcast on Ohio.com on March 12.