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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Ohio investigators probe shootings possibly tied to Craigslist ad

(CNN) -- The bodies of three men have been found in shallow graves in eastern Ohio, all of them believed to have been killed after answering a Craigslist ad to work on a cattle farm, according to authorities.
The Summit County medical examiner's office on Saturday identified one of the victims as Timothy Kern of Massillon, Ohio. The 47-year-old's death, caused by "gunshot wounds to the head," was ruled a homicide, the office said in an audio recording.
A phone call led police Friday to Kern's body in a shallow grave behind an Akron mall, authorities said. Multiple law enforcement authorities, including FBI officials, have tied Kern's death to a wider investigation into the two other killings.
Timothy Kern\'s body was discovered after he answered a Craigslist ad for farm help in Ohio.
Timothy Kern's body was discovered after he answered a Craigslist ad for farm help in Ohio.
In his last Facebook posting, dated November 10, Kern wrote: "Just got one of the strangest job offers. A good offer but strange. The job is to watch over 680 acres south of cambridge. Odd jobs and such but mainly just secure it. Trailer, utilities, salary. Drawbacks? No cell phone service, kids are up here, and i have to move this Sunday."
Meanwhile, the body of a "white male" was also discovered Friday "in a shallow grave in Stock Township," about 120 miles south of Akron, Noble County Sheriff Stephen Hannum said in a statement.
The sheriff did not respond to calls Saturday from CNN. But Hannum said earlier this month that there are "two suspects in custody" in the case.
Michael Rafferty told CNN affiliate WJW that his 16-year-old son Brogan Rafferty of Stowe is among them, charged with attempted murder. The father claimed that his son had been "manipulated" and "corrupted," insisting that his son is a "mild-mannered gentleman."
One suspect in the case -- 52-year-old Richard Beasley of Akron -- is being held on unrelated charges.
One suspect in the case -- 52-year-old Richard Beasley of Akron -- is being held on unrelated charges.
The other suspect in the case -- 52-year-old Richard Beasley of Akron, as identified on a Summit County court website -- is being held on unrelated charges. No attorney was listed for Beasley in the court document.
The investigation began the night of November 6, when a Noble County deputy sheriff responded to a call and came upon a "white, middle-aged man being treated for a gunshot wound to the right arm," according to Hannum.
The shooting victim, who is from South Carolina and was not identified by police, told the sheriff he had answered an ad on the Craigslist website offering work caring for cattle on a 688-acre property.
WJW: Body of missing Massillon man identified
He met with the two suspects and drove with them toward Stock Township. After being told a road was closed due to a landslide, the South Carolina man got out of the car to start walking toward the property, which he was told was nearby.
He told the sheriff that, while walking through a heavily wooded area, he then turned around "to see a gun pointed at his head. He deflected the gun and ran" -- getting shot in the arm while fleeing, according to the sheriff. The victim hid for seven hours in the forest before going to a house and requesting help, Hannum said.
Then, on November 11, the sheriff received a call from a Boston, Massachusetts, woman who said her twin brother had not been seen since October 22 in Parkersburg, West Virginia. The brother had also answered a Craigslist ad "and she felt very sure it was the same advertisement (the shooting victim from South Carolina) had answered."
On November 15, authorities -- including agents from the FBI and Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, plus "cadaver-sniffing" dogs -- found "the body of a white male buried in a shallow grave" near where the first man had been shot, Hannum said. Police have not identified the body.
The sheriff tied that man's death to the investigation of the shooting that left the South Carolina man wounded in the arm. Multiple authorities since then have also linked the two bodies discovered Friday -- including that of Kern -- with the same investigation.
Zach Kern, 19, told CNN that he last saw his father November 12 after he'd gone with another son for the job interview.
"He was all stoked about it," Zach Kern said of his father's feelings about the opportunity to work on the cattle farm. "My brother ... thought the whole situation was sketchy."
Timothy Kern ended up going to the would-be job site alone, not with the 17-year-old son who'd accompanied him to the interview, Zach Kern said.
The same son added that his father, divorced and with three children, worked "odd jobs" including recently as a street cleaner in Canton. He said that his father saw his children daily, adding that the whole family is struggling to come to grips with his death.
"We're just trying to get through this," Zach Kern said Saturday.

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