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Sentencing scheduled in Ohio's Craigslist killings

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — A judge must make a life-or-death decision in sentencing a self-styled street preacher in the murders of three down-and-out men lured by Craigslist job offers.

Judge Lynne Callahan scheduled sentencing for Tuesday afternoon for Richard Beasley, 53, of Akron. Last week the jury that convicted him of murder recommended that he be executed.

The judge has the option of reducing the sentence to life in prison.

Co-defendant Brogan Rafferty, who was 16 at the time of the crimes in 2011, was sentenced by the same judge last year to life without parole. Because of his age, he wasn't eligible for the death penalty.

Three men were killed, and a fourth who was wounded testified at Beasley's trial.

Beasley, who sat through the proceedings in a wheelchair he uses because of back pain, testified at his trial that the survivor pulled a gun on him first in retaliation for being a police informant in a motorcycle club investigation.

But Beasley didn't take the stand at the trial's sentencing phase to appeal for mercy. His attorneys instead called Beasley's mother, a psychologist and a Beasley friend.

Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said last week that Ohio reserves the death penalty for "the worst of the worst" and, as such, said Beasley deserves to be executed.

The prosecutor said Rafferty wasn't called to testify by the state because he wanted a sentence reduction, which prosecutors rejected.

In closing arguments in the sentencing phase, both sides highlighted Rafferty's life sentence in contrast to a possible death sentence for Beasley.

The defense said that issue should factor into the jury's deliberations, but the prosecution said it wasn't an issue because Rafferty's age, by law, had ruled out death as an option.

One of the victims was killed near Akron, and the others were shot at a southeast Ohio farm during bogus job interviews.

The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of nearby Massillon. All were down-and-out men looking for a fresh start in life, prosecutors said during the trial.

The survivor, Scott Davis, now 49, was looking for work so he could move from South Carolina closer to his family in northeast Ohio.

Davis testified that he heard the click of a gun as he walked in front of Beasley at the reputed job site in Noble County. Davis, who was shot in an arm, knocked the weapon aside, hid in the woods for seven hours and tipped off police.

"I was worried about bleeding to death," Davis testified.

Beasley returned to Ohio from Texas in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction. Rafferty, who had a troubled family life, described Beasley as a friend and mentor.

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