November 29, 2011
CALDWELL — A teen accused of murder made his first public court appearance Tuesday on charges he was part of a deadly robbery team that lured victims with a phony job ad, appearing dazed as a judge postponed a hearing on whether he should be tried as an adult.
The 16-year-old boy appeared briefly in a courtroom in Noble County. A juvenile judge put off the hearing because the boy’s father, who wasn’t present, hadn’t received proper notice of new charges filed last week. The next hearing will probably happen in a couple of weeks, the judge said.
The Akron teenager faces juvenile charges of aggravated murder, complicity to aggravated murder, attempted murder and complicity to attempted murder in the death of one man and the shooting of another. He is a junior at Stow Munroe City Schools, about 40 miles southeast of Cleveland, and is being held at a juvenile detention center in Muskingum County.
The boy wore sneakers, dark slacks, a shirt and a rain jacket as he was led into court with his hands cuffed in front of him, appearing slightly stunned. He didn’t speak during the hearing or afterward as police hustled him into a police car.
His mother sat on a bench directly behind him during the short hearing, rocking back and forth and appearing on the verge of tears. She left the courthouse hurriedly and gave only a few fleeting comments as she walked briskly to a black pickup across the street.
“We’re praying for the families and the victims,” she said to reporters. After she got into the passenger seat, she rolled the window down and said, “God bless you all. Do the right thing. Get the truth.”
Authorities say the teenager was involved in a scheme in which applicants answering a Craigslist ad for a phony job at a nonexistent cattle ranch in Noble County, 90 miles south of Akron in rural southeastern Ohio, were robbed, then killed. Authorities say they have connected two bodies to the scheme and identified one other man who was shot but escaped.
The teen was questioned by the FBI and arrested in mid-November several days after Scott Davis, of South Carolina, said was shot in the arm and escaped after he answered the ad.
The body of Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley, 51, was also found on the Noble County property, owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters. Authorities say Pauley was killed Oct. 23.
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 also found Friday was that of a man who was killed by a gunshot to the head, the coroner in Noble County said Tuesday. Authorities haven’t said whether that body is linked to the scheme but say it’s suspected the body is that of a man named Ralph Geiger.
Officials did not explain how they arrived at the conclusion or give any other details about the man.
The complaint against the boy says he participated in the alleged crimes with Richard Beasley, 52, of Akron, a man said to have acted as his mentor.
He was awaiting trial on prostitution and drug charges when authorities took him into custody this month, and police have said a halfway house he ran in Akron was a front for prostitution.
Rhonda Kotnik, an attorney for Beasley on the drug and prostitution charges, said Tuesday that she’s still gathering information, with hearings scheduled later this week.
She said she isn’t representing Beasley in anything involving the Craigslist case and points out he hasn’t been charged in that. She said she assumes the juvenile has been cooperating with police, which is common in such cases.
Noble County Judge John Nau has issued a gag order prohibiting lawyers from discussing the case, a move he defended Tuesday, saying he’s trying to ensure a fair trial in a sparsely populated county.
“It may not even be tried here, but I’m not sure it won’t, so I prepare for the possibility that it might,” he said.
The Associated Press generally does not identify juvenile suspects and is not naming the teenager or his mother.