A remorseful teenager was sentenced Friday to life in prison with no chance for parole for his role in a deadly plot to lure men desperate for work with phony Craigslist job offers.
"I thought it was something horrible," a grim-faced Brogan Rafferty, 17, told Judge Lynne Callahan before he was sentenced. If his life has been hell since the killings last year, "They must be living in it," said Rafferty, gesturing with his cuffed hands at victims' relatives who crowded the court. He said they also were victims of his crimes.
Rafferty told the judge, who will preside at the January trial of alleged triggerman Richard Beasley, 53, that his mentor is evil and deceitful and said he wished he had taken the opportunity to flee and stop the killings.
"There were many options I couldn't see at the time," said Rafferty, who remained composed during the sentencing, watching with a slight frown as relatives of the victims addressed the court. "You know nothing of remorse, you know nothing of shame," Barb Dailey, sister of Timothy Kern, told Rafferty in an eye-to-eye confrontation just steps apart. Without true repentance, "You will be destroyed," she told Rafferty, who nodded slightly.
Lori Hildreth, sister of the lone survivor, Scott Davis, 49, read a statement from him as Rafferty's mother sobbed. "It was only by the grace of God that I survived," Davis' statement said. "You took from me a chance to have a normal life." Davis' statement reminded Rafferty that they shared a meal before he was wounded and said Rafferty had a chance to "stop what was about to happen."
The judge, acknowledging the high emotions in court, said she had considered Rafferty's age, broken-home childhood and lack of any prior record, but said it was outweighed by "executions" that were cold, calculated and methodical. "You had the opportunity to stop the deaths," she said.
Rafferty's defense attorney, John Alexander, said the prosecution had offered as recently as Monday to recommend a sentence of 30 years to life in return for his testimony against Beasley. The prosecution said that was a framework for discussion, not an offer.
Rafferty is willing to testify against Beasley, according to Alexander, who said that "if it weren't for Richard Beasley, Brogan wouldn't be sitting here" in court. Rafferty was convicted of aggravated murder and attempted murder in the deaths of three men and wounding of a fourth.
The sentencing was delayed from Monday amid talks on a deal for leniency in return for Rafferty's testimony. Rafferty was looking to avoid a life sentence without hope of parole. The jury rejected the defense claim that Rafferty feared for himself and his family if he didn't cooperate with Beasley. Beasley, described as the teen's spiritual mentor, has pleaded not guilty and faces a Jan. 7 trial.
Prosecutors say the victims, all down in their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance, were lured with phony offers of farmhand jobs on Craigslist last year. One man was killed near Akron and the others were shot at a southeast Ohio farm during bogus job interviews. Prosecutors say robbery was the motive.
Rafferty, a high school student from Stow near Akron, was tried as an adult but didn't face a possible death penalty because he is a juvenile. Beasley, an ex-convict and self-styled street minister from Akron, could face the death penalty if convicted. The surviving victim testified as the prosecution's star witness. Davis identified Rafferty as Beasley's accomplice and told the jury a harrowing story.
Davis, who was looking to move close to his family in the Canton area, said he was walking across what turned out to be a bogus job site when he heard a gun cock and turned and found himself face to face with a handgun. He said he pushed the weapon aside, was shot in the arm and fled through the woods. During Rafferty's trial, Alexander painted Beasley as the mastermind and said that the first killing came without warning for Rafferty.
The three murdered men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Kern, 47, of Massillon. Authorities say they were targeted because they were older, single, out-of-work men with backgrounds that made it unlikely their disappearances would be noticed right away.