AKRON, Ohio — A man who says he was shot but escaped stepped down from the witness stand to identify his alleged attacker in court on Tuesday as prosecutors began trying to show that robbery and identity theft were motives for attacks in Ohio that left three men dead, all lured by phony job offers.
Scott Davis testified that he responded to such a listing for a farm caretaker in rural southeast Ohio and was later led into the woods and shot by an employer he knew as "Jack."
"That's him right there," Davis said, nodding slightly as he stood several yards in front of alleged triggerman Richard Beasley, who kept his head down.
Davis also said he remembered a tattoo on Beasley's arm because they had compared their tattoos while at a restaurant before the shooting. At a prosecutor's request, Beasley pushed up the sleeve of his dark suit jacket and shirt and outstretched his left forearm for Davis, who confirmed he recognized the image. It wasn't visible to the whole courtroom.
The defense questioned why Davis hadn't mentioned the tattoo to authorities before bringing it up to a prosecutor recently. Davis said he'd just remembered it.
Beasley, 53, has pleaded not guilty to multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other charges. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
His attorney, James Burdon, said in opening statements that there isn't enough evidence to convict Beasley. He said the defense would try to show that Davis attacked Beasley first, not the other way around.
Davis said he met Beasley – as "Jack" – and a younger man presented as his nephew in November 2011 for a purported visit to the 680-acre Noble County farm in need of a caretaker. Davis, who'd been living in South Carolina, testified he had pursued the job because he wanted to move closer to family near Canton.
Davis said he walked into the woods following Beasley, but Beasley eventually suggested turning around and taking a different route.
"I turned around to head back, and I heard a curse word and a click," Davis said. He said he spun back around to face the man and spotted the gun just before it fired, hitting Davis' elbow. Davis said he fled as more shots were fired and hid for hours in the woods before seeking help at a farmhouse that evening.
Jurors heard the 911 call and testimony by a man who was at the house where Davis sought help. He testified that Davis was pale and frightened and believed someone was trying to rob him.
Noble County Sheriff Stephen Hannum testified Tuesday that he initially didn't believe the injured man's story about the job offer and the shooting, partly because he couldn't think of a swath of land nearby that matched the farm in the job ad. But he said the sheriff's office located Davis' truck and trailer full of belongings he'd brought to Ohio and began to believe he was a victim as the case unfolded.
Beasley, who has back problems and was seated in a wheelchair, occasionally whispered to his attorneys or took notes as he listened to testimony.
He's been portrayed as a mentor and friend to his co-defendant, 18-year-old Brogan Rafferty, who was tried separately, convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Rafferty has agreed to testify against Beasley.
Rafferty has said the crimes were horrible but he didn't see any chance to stop the killings. Rafferty said he feared Beasley would kill him and his relatives if he tipped off police.
Prosecutors say the victims, all down on their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearance, also were lured with fake job offers on Craigslist. The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon.
Kern's father was among a handful of victims' relatives in court Tuesday. Beasley's mother also appeared, but the judge instructed her to leave because of the possibility that she might be a witness before sentencing if Beasley is convicted.
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