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Ohio jury convicts teenager of Craigslist murders

By Kim Palmer

AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - A jury convicted 17-year-old Brogan Rafferty of murder on Tuesday in the deaths of three men, two of whom were lured to Ohio by a Craigslist ad promising work on a farm.

Rafferty and Richard Beasley, 53, were charged with murder in the deaths of the three men. Two men answered a social media ad for a $300-a-week job as a caretaker on a farm about 100 miles south of Cleveland.

Although prosecutors said Beasley pulled the trigger, they accused Rafferty of assisting in the crimes and the attempted murder of a fourth man, Scott Davis.

Rafferty was 16 when he was arrested in November 2011, but was tried as an adult. He faces up to life in prison in the killing of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.

Rafferty did not react as the multiple guilty verdicts were read by Judge Lynne Callahan, but his mother dropped her head and sobbed.

Kern's father cried when the guilty verdict in his son's murder was read. After all of the verdicts, he gave a thumbs up.

The Summit County, Ohio, jury of seven women and five men took 20 hours to reach a verdict.

During the trial, Rafferty testified that he feared for his life after watching Beasley, a man he considered a father figure and spiritual leader, shoot Geiger in the head execution style.

Rafferty admitted he dug two holes that he said were meant to be graves. He told jurors that he felt trapped into doing what Beasley said because he was "terrified" of the older man.

But prosecutors called Rafferty an apt pupil of Beasley and said the teen had ample opportunities to turn the older man in and protect himself and his family.

After the trial concluded, some of the jurors spoke to reporters about the verdict.

"It was a tough one. He was a child and he is a child, and it was very difficult to make a decision," juror Michele Lewis said.

A male juror who asked not to be identified said the jury did not believe Rafferty's story that he was so afraid of Beasley that he cooperated in the murders.

"This was not one man intimidating another," he added.

Beasley, a friend of the Rafferty family, is scheduled to stand trial in January. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. Rafferty's sentencing is scheduled for November 5.

The Ohio crimes are among a growing number of incidents involving Craigslist and other social media, including other attacks on people responding to advertisements.

In 2009, a former medical student was accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist. In February, two men in Tennessee were accused of killing a man and a woman for "unfriending" the daughter of one of the suspects on Facebook.

(Editing by Greg McCune and James B. Kelleher; Editing by Sandra Maler and Stacey Joyce)

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