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A mentor's motives are questioned after Ohio teen is charged in case of deadly Craigslist scam
CLEVELAND (AP) ' By one account, Richard Beasley was a devoted mentor to a 16-year-old high school junior, taking him to church almost weekly, going fishing, playing video games and involving him in volunteer work.
The teenager's mother paints another picture of Beasley, 52 ' that of a man who threatened her son and who once said that he knew where the teen lived and that "I know where your mother lives."
Whatever the nature of the relationship, it apparently ended this month after the teen was charged with attempted murder in a scheme that police say lured applicants for a phony Craigslist job posting into deadly robberies.
Police believe two deaths are connected to the scam but haven't said whether another body found Friday is linked. A fourth man who said he answered the same ad survived a shooting, while a fifth man says he interviewed with Beasley for the fake job as a farm hand but decided not to take it.
"Richard was always a very giving person," Beasley's mother, Carol Beasley, has said. "He reached out and helped a lot of people."
Beasley, a self-described minister, has been jailed on unrelated prostitution charges. Messages were left with his attorney seeking comment. The AP generally does not identify juvenile suspects and is not naming the teenager or his mother.
Beasley has a criminal record dating to the 1980s. He was convicted in Texas of burglary and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1985, sentenced to a 40-year prison sentence and placed on parole for 34 years in 1989. Previous charges in Ohio include aggravated menacing, tampering with evidence, possession of criminal tools and illegal cultivation of marijuana, court records show.
Following Beasley's return to Akron in 2003, he ran a halfway house, helped deliver food to the poor and vouched for fellow offenders, telling judges they had changed their ways, the Akron Beacon Journal reported over the weekend.
Police say the halfway house was a front for prostitution, the newspaper reported, and Beasley was awaiting trial on prostitution and drug charges when authorities took him into custody this month.
The teen appears to be placing blame on Beasley, his attorney told the newspaper.
Beasley's mother has said that her son had taken the boy to The Chapel, an Akron megachurch, since he was 7 or 8 years old, according to WEWS-TV of Cleveland, and that they did volunteer work together, such as delivering food to the needy.
"The most I can say is, this is just a big shock to us," Carol Beasley has said. "I pray it's some other person and not him."
A church spokeswoman said Beasley had no involvement with youth activities at the church and that while his mother had long attended services, Beasley showed up only sporadically.
Beasley was not sanctioned through The Chapel, Tammy Kennedy, the executive assistant to the senior and executive pastors of The Chapel in Akron, Ohio, told ABC News.
The events leading to the arrest of Beasley and the teen began Nov. 6, when a South Carolina man who answered the ad was shot in Noble County before escaping, hiding in the woods for hours and then hiking to a farmhouse in the dark, police say. The body of Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley, 51, was found the following week.
Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, was found buried Friday near an Akron-area shopping mall. He had been shot in the head. A third body was found Friday not far from where Pauley's was buried in a hand-dug grave.
The boy, a junior at Stow Munroe City Schools about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, was questioned by the FBI at school on Nov. 16, then arrested at home later that day, school spokeswoman Jacquie Mazziotta said Monday.
He has been warned he will face trial as an adult and could face more than 40 years in prison, his mother told The Associated Press in a phone interview Monday from her home in the Akron area. A judge planned a hearing in Noble County on Tuesday.
"My son is not a monster," his mother said. She stopped short of saying he provided the tip that led to the discovery of the Akron-area body but said he "has told everything he knows."
"He's a scared little boy," she said.
The farm advertised on Craigslist does not exist; the remote Noble County area where two bodies were found 90 miles south of Akron is property owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters.
The men who interviewed for the Craigslist ad came from around the country but shared much in common. They were middle-aged or just beyond, between 47 and 58 years old.
They were unattached, either single or divorced. They needed work badly enough that they were willing to travel hundreds of miles on the barest of details about the job. Above all, they seemed the type of men whose disappearances might go unnoticed for a while.
Ron Sanson, of Stow, said he responded to the ad and met Beasley at a shopping mall food court outside Akron on Oct. 10. Beasley told him he was looking for an older, single or divorced person to watch over a 688-acre farm in southeast Ohio ' the kind of man, Sanson says, whose disappearance might not be quickly noticed.
"How many other people have filled out an application, met with the guy and, you know, and no one knows they're gone right now?" Sanson has said.
The teenager's mother said she has been inundated with calls from those who know their son, saying he wasn't capable of violence. She urged prayers for victims' families and for her son's exoneration.
"Pray for the families and pray that America and everybody else finds the real monster that robbed these families of their men," she said.
Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus. Associated Press writers Kantele Franko and Andy Brownfield contributed to this report.
Welsh-Huggins can be reached at http://twitter.com/awhcolumbus.