A self-styled US street preacher accused in a deadly plot to lure men with Craigslist job offers and then rob them was found guilty of aggravated murder on Tuesday and could face the death penalty.
A jury returned the verdict in the case against Richard Beasley, who was charged together with a high school student with killing two men from Ohio and one from Virginia. Another from South Carolina was shot, but survived and testified about running for his life and hiding in the woods, scared he would bleed to death.
Family members of the victims hugged and wiped away tears as the verdict was read. Beasley, who also was convicted of aggravated robbery, kidnapping and attempted murder in wounding the lone survivor, slumped in his wheelchair, which he uses because of back problems. His mother leaned over and sobbed.
The Ohio jury that convicted Beasley will return later to consider whether to recommend the death penalty for him.
Prosecutors labeled the 53-year-old Beasley the triggerman in the 2011 plot with a student he mentored. The 16-year-old student, Brogan Rafferty, was convicted and sentenced last year to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel told jurors there was no reasonable doubt that Beasley plotted the killings, and he presented three possible theories for aggravated murder — planning the crimes, done with a kidnapping or done with a robbery.
He said there was “prior calculation and design,” a component of the death penalty aggravated murder charge.
Prosecutors said the victims, all down on their luck and with few family ties that might highlight their disappearances, were lured with offers of farmhand jobs.