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Defense calls witnesses in Ohio Craigslist murder case

By Kim Palmer

AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - The defense for the teen accused of killing three men lured with an ad on Craigslist opened its case on Monday with witnesses who testified the young man was raised without much supervision.

Brogan Rafferty, 17, and Richard Beasley, 53, are charged with the murder of three men and the attempted murder of another in a deadly robbery scheme. Closing arguments in the trial, which started in early October, could begin later this week, attorneys said.

The Ohio case is one of a series across the nation involving perpetrators who either found victims through the Craigslist website or other social media sites, or used the Internet for criminal purposes.

Among the witnesses Monday was Rafferty's father, a machinist who worked 65 hours a week, raised his son alone and described himself as a strict disciplinarian.

Michael Rafferty testified that by the time his son was 6 years old, he was expected to get himself ready for school. "We are not emotional people," the father explained. "My family does not tolerate weakness."

Rafferty and Beasley were arrested in November 2011 after a North Carolina man named Scott Davis told police he had been shot by the pair after answering an online job ad.

Shortly after the two were arrested, authorities discovered the bodies of David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio, in shallow graves around 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 when he was arrested, faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.

All the defense witnesses Monday described Rafferty as quiet and polite and testified that they saw a change in his mood and demeanor in the fall of 2011, shortly after the first victim was shot.

Beasley, who prosecutors say was the trigger man, 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 and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by James B. Kelleher, Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker)

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