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Teenager's trial in Ohio Craigslist murder case begins Tuesday

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Jury selection is scheduled to begin on Tuesday in the trial of a teenager accused in the murder of three men and the attempted murder of another in Ohio in a robbery scheme that lured victims using a phony job ad on Craigslist.

Brogran Rafferty, 17, has been charged along with Richard Beasley, 53, with more than 30 counts, including three counts of aggravated murder, attempted murder and theft.

Rafferty and Beasley were arrested in November 2011 after Scott Davis of North Carolina told police he was shot by the pair after answering an online ad they had placed and driving to a remote location with the suspects. Davis managed to escape.

Shortly after Rafferty's arrest, the bodies of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio, were found buried in shallow graves throughout Ohio.

All three men had answered the same Craigslist ad Scott had answered, touting a $300-a-week job south of Akron, Ohio.

Rafferty, who was 16 years old at the time of his arrest, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted. Beasley, whom authorities have called the trigger man in the shootings, is scheduled to stand trial in January. He was already facing drug and prostitution charges in Ohio as well as a probation violation charge in Texas before his arrest in the case, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.

Last month, a judge ruled that incriminating statements Rafferty made to officers about two of the graves were admissible in court.

According to court documents, Rafferty was interviewed several times by authorities and took police and FBI to locations he had visited with Beasley after waiving his Miranda rights.

Rafferty was also offered a plea agreement that would have permitted him to avoid facing charges in the deaths of Geiger and Kern - but he stopped cooperating with police and claimed his initial statements were coerced.

The 2011 murders in Ohio are among a number of incidents across the nation where accused attackers apparently found their victims through ad postings on Craigslist or other social media sites.

In 2009, a former medical student was accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist and police believe that a serial killer, or killers, in the New York area may be preying on prostitutes who advertised on the site.

In other incidents, people advertising goods for sale and responding to such ads have been attacked and killed. Earlier this year, two men in Tennessee were accused of killing a man and a woman for "defriending" the daughter of one of the suspects on Facebook.

(Editing by James B. Kelleher)

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