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In the fall of 2011, Scott Davis, 48, moved from South Carolina back to Ohio, where he looked forward to a new job as a live-in caretaker.
In exchange for $300 a week and a two-bedroom trailer for housing, as posted in an ad on Craigslist, Davis’s duties included watching over “a 688 acre patch of hilly farmland.” Davis needed a fresh start and this seemed like a promising opportunity, according to “Mastermind of Murder,” airing Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on Oxygen.
On November 6, 2011, Davis went to a Noble County restaurant to meet his employer, who called himself “Jack.” Alongside Jack was a teenager he introduced as his nephew.
Davis later rode with the two to a wooded area. He then got out of the car with Jack to survey the surroundings. But Davis, who walked in front of his new boss, heard a click, a sound that may have been made by a gun misfiring. He turned around as Jack shot him through the elbow.
Bleeding and in pain, Davis ran for his life. He hid for seven hours in the middle of nowhere before making it to a house where the owner called 911.
While Davis was treated at the hospital, police searched for the shooter by reviewing security footage at the restaurant where the meeting took place.
Five days later, as news of the shooting incident spread, police received a call from Debra Bruce. Her twin brother, David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia had responded to an ad that sounded identical to the one Davis was duped by.
Police noted Davis and Pauley were about the same age and theorized that there could be a pattern forming. They considered the possibility that the shooter was interested in a certain type of victim: middle-aged men with relatively few family ties.
In fact, they would later discover that a woman in her 20s who answered the ad in October said she never heard back about it, CBS News reported in 2011.
Police searched for leads in the area where Davis had been shot. He told officials that he had lost his ball cap when he fled. If they found the hat there could be clues nearby.
It took two days to find the cap, according to Detective Sergeant Jason Mackie. They also made a chilling discovery near it: a freshly dug grave that presumably had been prepared for Davis’ body.
The search didn’t turn up any sign of Pauley, but authorities suspected that he may have been buried in the vicinity. A reinforcement crew and cadaver dogs were called in.
The search turned up the body of a man who had been shot in the back of the head. Pauley’s sister was able to identify the victim as her brother by a bracelet, according to “Mastermind of Murder.”
The body count escalated. Investigators found the remains of a third victim they couldn’t immediately identify.
Mackie reached out to the FBI to help trace who placed the Craigslist ad. Work by the cyber term led to the home of Joe Bais in Akron, Ohio.
When questioned by authorities, Bais denied placing a Craigslist ad. He added that he had a tenant who rented his basement space and used his computer and internet service. He knew that man as “Dutch,” who was eventually identified as Richard Beasley, 52.
A search of the Bais home where Beasley had stayed revealed prescription pill bottles with the name Ralph Geiger on them. The unknown body found in the woods where Davis was shot was confirmed to be Geiger’s.
Investigators would learn that to avoid returning to prison in Texas, Beasley decided to go on the lam and change his identity. He assumed Geiger’s name as one of a number of aliases.
Davis confirmed images of Beasley as the man who shot him. The teenager who Beasley said was his nephew was actually Brandon Rafferty, 16, of Akron. Beasley had taken Rafferty under his wing.
Investigators interviewed the adolescent, who soon refused to speak without an attorney. Although Rafferty wouldn’t talk, police executed a search warrant on his house where they found a briefcase containing what Mackie called a “killing kit” filled with weapons.
They also found a disturbing poem on his computer dated August 16, 2011. “We took him out to the woods on a humid summer’s night … The loud crack echoed and I didn’t hear the thud.” It described the murder of Geiger.
Investigators theorized that Rafferty’s troubled home situation and lack of parental guidance helped make him vulnerable to falling under Beasley’s sway. Beasley was known for manipulating people to get what he wanted from them.
Beasley “is and always has been a snake oil salesman,” assistant prosecutor Jon Baumoel told producers.
Over time Beasley groomed Rafferty and was able to forge a relationship in which they were committing crimes together.
As a manhunt was underway for Beasley, who was now being referred to as the Craigslist killer, police caught a break. Not knowing that Bais had been in touch with authorities, Beasley left a message and a phone number with him.
Using that number, police tracked Beasley using phone tower signals and arrested him on November 16.
In another police interview Rafferty told authorities that men who responded to the bogus jobs were called “candidates.”
“They were candidates for death,” said Mackie.
A fourth victim, Timothy Kern, 47, died from a gunshot to the head on November 13, 2011. Kern’s body was found in the woods behind a mall in Akron on November 25.
When offered a deal that would have enabled him to get parole when he was middle-aged, Rafferty passed on it. He refused to turn on Beasley.
Rafferty was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder. In 2013 he was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.
Beasley received the death penalty in 2013. In 2020, Beasley was resentenced because of a procedural error during his first sentencing, the Akron Beacon Journal reported. The overall result remained unchanged. He was again “sentenced to death and to multiple consecutive sentences for his other crimes.”
To learn more about the case, watch “Mastermind of Murder,” airing Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on Oxygen.
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