By Kim Palmer
AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - A teenager accused in the killing of three men lured by a job ad on Craigslist testified on Tuesday he was shocked when he saw a man he viewed as a father figure kill the first of the victims and then terrified when the man threatened him with a knife.
Brogan Rafferty, 17, told jurors that Richard Beasley shot Akron, Ohio, resident Ralph Geiger, 56, in the head and then pointed a knife at the teenager and threatened the safety of Rafferty's mother and sister.
"I didn't think it was real," Rafferty said in three hours of testimony. "It was like I immediately slipped into a dream. Nothing registered afterwards. I was terrified."
The Ohio case is the latest of several across the country involving perpetrators who found victims through the Craigslist website or other social media sites.
Rafferty and Beasley, 53, are charged with the murders of three men found buried in shallow graves around Ohio last year. The men were lured to their deaths with the promise of a $300-a-week job on an Ohio farm advertised on Craigslist.
Rafferty, who was 16 when he was arrested and is being tried as an adult, faces up to life in prison if convicted of killing Geiger; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.
They are also charged with the attempted murder of Scott Davis. Davis testified earlier in the trial that he met Rafferty and Beasley after accepting a job he found on Craigslist and was shot in the arm by Beasley as they walked in the woods.
Rafferty, dressed in a gray golf shirt and khakis, testified that he had a close relationship with Beasley, who he had known since he was 10 years old, and said he was afraid to go to authorities about Beasley after the killing and threats.
"I trusted him, as I got to know him better he was my spiritual mentor and counselor of sorts," Rafferty said. "I thought he was a great guy. The father I never had."
Asked by defense attorney John Alexander whether he felt he could go to the police, Rafferty said: "The fear was constantly there. Always there."
Under cross-examination by prosecutor Paul Scarsella, Rafferty said he never called police or told his parents or anyone at church or school about what had happened until his arrest in November 2011.
Beasley, who prosecutors contend was the trigger man, faces a possible death sentence if convicted of the killings in a separate trial scheduled to start in January.
A forensic psychologist is expected to testify for the defense when the trial resumes on Wednesday. Closing arguments could begin as soon as Thursday.
In other incidents involving Craigslist and other social media, people advertising goods for sale have been attacked and killed as have those responding to ads.
In 2009, a former medical student was accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist. And in February, 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 David Bailey and Eric Beech)