Midnight Shift: The advertisement sounded too good to be true. And it was. Those who responded found themselves lured into the grasp of a serial killer.
A Doctorate in Death: Professor Amy Bishop was known around campus for her notoriously short fuse. Still, no one would have suspected that she’d pull a gun during a faculty meeting.
Secrets and Lies: A duplicitous redhead, a hapless, love-struck rancher and a handsome cowboy come together in this sordid tale of sex, deceit and murder.
The Girl in the Yellow Pajamas: How do you catch a killer when you can’t even put a name to the victim? A classic murder mystery from Australia.
Life After Death: The horrific tale of a woman who was prepared to go to any lengths to have a baby – including bloody murder.
Game, Set, and Murder: He was a Wimbledon finalist and the greatest Irish tennis player of his generation. So how did he end up embroiled in a bloody mutilation murder?
Eat Me: The advertisement called for a man who was prepared to be killed and then eaten. Amazingly, there were four applicants.
A Man Walks into a Bank…: The barely believable tale of a bank heist gone horribly wrong and the robber who, literally, lost his head.
Click the "Read More" link below to read the first chapter of
Murder Most Vile Volume 17
Perhaps Scott Davis should have followed his instincts, which told him that if something sounded too good to be true, it probably was. But the ad he’d found on Craigslist had been impossible to resist. He’d been wanting to move back to Ohio for some time, to be closer to his elderly mother. This job would give him that opportunity – if his application was successful, of course. The advertiser had suggested in his write-up that there was likely to be a great deal of interest. Scott could see how that would be the case. The ad was enticing:
Wanted: Caretaker for Farm. Simply watch over a 688-acre patch of hilly farmland and feed a few cows, you get $300 a week and a nice 2-bedroom trailer. Someone older and single preferred but will consider all. Relocation a must. You must have a clean record and be trustworthy – this is a permanent position. The farm is used mainly as a hunting preserve, is overrun with game, has a stocked 3-acre pond, but some beef cattle will be kept. Nearest neighbor is a mile away. The place is secluded and beautiful, it will be a real get away for the right person. Job of a lifetime. If you are ready to relocate please contact asap. Position will not stay open.
Scott Davis had answered the ad on October 9, 2011. Now, four weeks later, he was sitting down to breakfast with his new employer at the Shoney’s Restaurant in Marietta, Ohio. The stocky, middle-aged man had introduced himself as Jack, and the teenager who’d accompanied him as his nephew, Brogan. He got right down to business, although he seemed less interested in going over Scott’s duties on the farm than in the contents of the U-Haul trailer Scott had brought with him from South Carolina. Scott assured him that it was “full from top to bottom” and yes, that it did contain the Harley-Davidson that Jack had encouraged him to bring with him because there were “plenty of beautiful rural roads to putt-putt in.”
With breakfast done, Jack told Scott to follow him and Brogan and then drove to the Food Center Emporium in the nearby town of Caldwell. There, Jack instructed him to leave his truck and trailer in the parking lot and to drive with him and Brogan in their white Buick LeSabre. A small section of the road leading to the farm was badly rutted, he explained, and they’d have to make sure it was passable before returning for the trailer.
That sounded to Scott like a reasonable explanation and so he slid into the back seat of the Buick. Brogan, at the wheel, pulled the car out of the lot and headed west. Fifteen minutes later and the paved road had devolved to gravel and then to dirt, although they’d yet to encounter a stretch that was as impassable as Jack had suggested. Still, Scott wasn’t too concerned. He was looking out of the window at the landscape, which was as peaceful and as beautiful as Jack had described it. The stretch they were driving now was hilly and densely green and it was here that Jack told his nephew to pull over. “Drop us off where we got us that deer the last time,” he said, and Brogan duly obliged, slowing the vehicle, edging it to the side of the road and then bringing it to a stop. Jack explained that he’d left some equipment down by the creek and needed to retrieve it. He asked Scott for his help. Scott then got out of the vehicle and followed Jack down the slope to a clearing in the trees. There, Jack appeared momentarily confused and then said that perhaps this wasn’t the place after all. He suggested that they head back to the car.
Scott turned around and started walking, with Jack now following behind. But they’d taken only a few steps when he heard a loud click and then Jack cursing “Fuck!” Turning, Scott saw that Jack was holding a pistol and that it was pointed at his head.
Instinctively, Scott threw up his arm to shield his face and that was when the pistol fired and pain flared in his elbow. He’d been hit! He’d been shot and if he didn’t get moving, he’d be shot again. Jack evidentially meant to kill him. Scott turned and started to run, stumbled and fell, rose again and sprinted into the trees. Behind him he heard footfalls and the snap of the pistol. Barely aware of the pain in his shattered elbow, he kept going ever deeper into the woods. Eventually, when he felt that he’d made enough distance, when he could no longer hear the sound of Jack blundering through the brush after him, he stopped.
Scott’s path had taken him in a broad arc that had brought him back to the road. But he wasn’t about to step out into the open, not with his killer likely to still be looking for him. Instead, he lay down in the brush, clutching his injured appendage and gritting his teeth against the pain that was now beginning to kick in. He felt weak from loss of blood but knew that he had to stay awake. If he passed out here in the woods, he would probably die. Eventually, once the sun had completed its arc across the sky and plunged the world into darkness, he rose and staggered out onto the dirt road. Not knowing where he was or where he was headed, he started walking.
Jeff Schockling was sitting in his mother’s living room, watching TV, when the doorbell chimed. That in itself was unusual. The location was remote and visitors tended to be friends and acquaintances who didn’t bother ringing the bell. Not wanting to interrupt his viewing, Jeff shouted out to his nephew to get it, which the boy did. Moments later, the 9-year-old came running back into the house, yelling, “There’s a guy at the door! He’s been shot and he’s bleeding!”
At first, Schockling thought that his nephew was playing a prank on him. But the youngster was so insistent that he went to check for himself. Sure enough there was a stranger on the porch, a middle-aged man with graying shoulder-length hair who was quite obviously injured. He was holding his right arm across his body and Schockling could see right away that he had lost a lot of blood. His jeans and denim jacket were literally soaked in it. “Call 911,” the man rasped in a voice that was barely more than a whisper. “I’ve been shot.”
It took Sheriff Stephen Hannum just 15 minutes to reach the remote scene. There he found the injured man sitting at a picnic table, clutching his wounded arm. It was apparent that he had suffered significant blood loss but he was still remarkably coherent for a man with such a serious injury. He said that his name was Scott Davis and that he’d come from South Carolina to take up a job as a farm manager. But the rest of his story raised Sheriff Hannum’s suspicions. According to Davis, the farm he’d been meant to oversee was a 688-acre spread and Hannum knew that there were no farms that big in the area. Not even close. Davis also claimed that the man who had hired him had then pulled a gun and shot him without provocation.
“Why do you think he’d do a thing like that?” Hannum asked.
“I don’t know,” Davis said wincing. “Maybe he wanted to steal my Harley.”
The mention of the Harley got Hannum to size up Davis again. He knew that there were some bikers out of Akron who occasionally sold dope in the area. Is that what this was? A dope deal gone wrong? He decided that it probably was.
But as Hannum began checking up on the story that Davis had told him, he soon realized that much of it was true. The truck and trailer were still standing in the Food Center Emporium parking lot, and contained exactly the objects that Davis had described, including his Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It was then that he knew he was dealing with an attempted murder. Soon he’d come to realize that it was much bigger than that.
Scott Davis wasn’t the only man to answer the Craigslist ad. David Pauley was 51 years old and divorced. He had fallen on hard times when he spotted the advertisement that offered the promise of redemption. At the time, he was living in the spare bedroom at his brother’s home in Norfolk, Virginia but prior to that he’d been in regular employment for most of his life. Two decades of that time had been spent with Randolph-Bundy, a wholesale distributor of building materials. There he’d worked his way up to warehouse manager but in 2003 he’d had a disagreement with his employer and had quit. His timing could not have been worse. Recession loomed and with companies across the nation laying off staff he found it difficult to find work. For eight years he’d subsisted on short term, low-paying jobs. When he came across the Craigslist ad in October 2011, it must have seemed like a godsend.
David was doubly keen on the Craigslist job because his best friend, Chris Maul, had moved to Rocky River, Ohio a couple years earlier and was doing well. He and Chris had been buddies since high school and they spoke several times each day, using the Nextel walkie-talkies they’d bought for that purpose. Chris thought that the job would be a good opportunity for his friend to get a new start and David was even more enthusiastic about it. He could barely contain his excitement when he got the call from Jack saying that his application had been successful. His first call was to his friend. The second was to his twin sister, Deb, who lived in Maine.
On the evening of Saturday October 22, 2011, David Pauley checked in at the Red Roof Inn in Parkersburg, West Virginia. Parkersburg is just across the state border from Marietta, Ohio and David was due to meet his new employer for breakfast at a Bob Evans there the next morning. Just before retiring for the night, he made a call to his old buddy Chris Maul and said that he’d check in with him the next day. That call never came.
Chris was naturally concerned when he didn’t hear from David. And his apprehension grew during the day as he tried several times to reach David on his walkie-talkie and got no response. Eventually, he phoned David’s brother, Richard, in Virginia and got the number of David’s new employer, Jack, who he managed to reach on his cellphone. Everything was fine, Jack assured him. He’d just given David a long list of chores and he was probably busy with that and with settling in. He promised to pass on a message and was sure that David would call soon.
But when days passed and there was still no word, Chris dialed Jack again. This time Jack had a different story to tell. He said that David had packed up all his things and had left, saying that he’d met a guy who was headed to Pennsylvania to work on a drilling rig, and that he’d decided to go there too. Chris found this story hard to accept. It just didn’t sound like David. Even if he had decided to leave his employer in the lurch (which Chris thought was unlikely) he would not have left without letting Chris know. The two of them had planned to meet up over the weekend.
Chris continued to fret over his friend’s whereabouts over the next week. Eventually, in early November, he called David’s sister in Maine. She too had heard nothing and was beginning to worry. In fact, she’d spent the last few days at her laptop making up a list of numbers that she could contact in order to try to track her brother down. She’d already called the motel in Parkersburg and the U-Haul rental place but had learned nothing. Then, on Friday night, November 11, she tried a different tack and started scanning newspapers. That was how she came across The Daily Jeffersonian and the article dated November 8: “Man Says He Was Lured Here for Work, Then Shot.” The article mentioned Noble County sheriff, Stephen Hannum as a contact. Deb dialed his office immediately.
Since the attempted murder of Scott Davis five days earlier, Hannum and his officers had been trying to locate the man who had posted the Craigslist ad and lured Davis to Marietta. They’d located security-camera footage from the breakfast meeting at Shoney’s and although the film was grainy, they knew that they were looking for a middle-aged man and a teenaged boy. Tracking them, though, was proving difficult. Then came Deb’s phone call and the investigation was given a whole new emphasis. Was it possible that the Davis shooting was not an isolated incident? Could they possibly be hunting a serial killer?
The next day, Saturday, November 12, the sheriff called in an FBI cyber-crimes specialist to help track the person who had posted the Craigslist ad. At the same time, he sent officers with cadaver dogs into the woods to search the area where Scott Davis had been shot. There was a torrential downpour that day but it didn’t stop the dogs finding a shallow grave containing the remains of David Pauley. Just a few feet away, another grave had been evacuated, this one apparently intended for Scott Davis.
The investigation rapidly began gathering pace now. First the cyber-crimes expert tracked an IP address to a boarding house in Akron. The owner of that house, Joe Bais, insisted that he’d never posted an ad on Craigslist in his life. He did, however, mention that he’d recently rented a room to a man named Ralph Geiger who might have done so. He had no idea where the police might find Geiger. In the meantime, the security footage from Shoney’s had also borne fruit. The man seen talking to Scott Davis was identified as Richard Beasley, an ex-con currently wanted in Texas on a parole violation.
So were Ralph Geiger and Richard Beasley the same man? There was one way to find out. Geiger had left his cellphone number with his former landlord. On November 16, the police got Bais to call Geiger and to keep him on the line long enough to run a trace. Geiger was taken into custody by an FBI SWAT team while he was still on the phone. His young accomplice, Brogan Rafferty, was arrested soon after and revealed his friend’s true identity. As the investigators had expected, “Geiger” was really Richard Beasley.
Beasley, the police learned, had a long arrest record and had served time for burglary and for firearms offences. After being released from a prison term for the latter charge in 2009, he’d apparently decided to turn over a new leaf and had founded a halfway house for runaways, drug addicts and prostitutes. He would cruise the streets of Akron at night, picking up strays and bringing them back to the house where he’d provide them with a bed for the night. He’d also get them into drug programs and try to convince them to accept Christ as their savior.
But Beasley’s house was a front. While he was pretending to help the young girls under his care, he was also serving as their pimp, driving them around town to hook up with various clients. And he was providing them with drugs, which is what saw him arrested in February 2011. Then the police heard about the prostitution ring he was running and began building a case. Richard Beasley was probably going away for a long time and he knew it. That was why he skipped out on his bail mid-July 2011, changed his appearance and started using the alias Ralph Geiger.
The police also learned about Beasley’s relationship with Brogan Rafferty. It appeared that Beasley had known the boy for eight years. Brogan’s father, Michael, had met Beasley via the local motorcycle circuit and knew that he was a “bible puncher” who attended a local church called the Chapel and was also a street preacher. So when 8-year-old Brogan expressed an interest in attending church services, Michael saw no problem in allowing Beasley to take him. It was only church after all. What was the worst that could happen? The answer to that question, apparently, was murder.
One week after arresting Brogan Rafferty, investigators struck a deal with the 16-year-old whereby he would be allowed to plead to reduced charges in exchange for his testimony against Beasley. Rafferty initially agreed to the plea bargain and although he would later renege on the deal, all of the interviews he gave were recorded and the recordings would later be played in court.
According to Rafferty, it all began in the first week of August 2011, when Beasley admitted to him that he was on the run from the law and said that he needed his help. The first thing Beasley wanted was a new identity, and so he began hanging around a local homeless shelter looking for someone who resembled him. The man he eventually decided on was Ralph Geiger. Geiger had once run a thriving building maintenance business, but the recession had bitten hard and destroyed his livelihood. He was desperate to get back on his feet so when Beasley offered him the “job of a lifetime” as the caretaker of a cattle ranch, he couldn’t resist. He ended up shot to death and buried in the woods. Thereafter, Beasley started calling himself Ralph Geiger.
Now, however, Beasley had another problem. He needed money and, since the ruse he had used on Geiger had worked so well, he decided to expand the scam. That was when he began running his Craigslist ads, luring desperate men to Ohio to be shot and robbed and buried in the woods. It had worked with David Pauley and would have worked with Scott Davis too, if Beasley’s gun had not jammed at the critical moment.
Rafferty had even more to tell. There was a fourth victim. After the failed attempt on Scott Davis’ life you would have thought that Richard Beasley would have laid low for a while, perhaps even gotten out of town. But Beasley was desperate. He’d told Rafferty that he stood to make around $30,000 out of the Davis murder, enough to “see him through the winter.” Now he had nothing.
And so Richard Beasley got right back to working his Craigslist scam and in no time at all he’d attracted a new mark, a man named Timothy Kern. Like the others, Kern was desperate, having recently lost his job. On Sunday, November 13, Beasley and Rafferty picked up Kern at a parking lot in Canton, where he’d spent the night sleeping in his car. However, Beasley’s potential score this time was hardly worth the effort. Kern had a rusty old sedan with an ancient TV set on the back seat beside a few garbage bags filled with his clothes. Disgusted, Beasley decided to kill him anyway. Kern was driven to a wooded area behind an abandoned mall in western Akron. There he was shot to death and buried in a shallow grave. Four days later, the police net would finally close on Craigslist killer, Richard Beasley.
Richard Beasley went on trial in April 2013, and was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to death. By then, his accomplice Brogan Rafferty had already had his own day in court and (having reneged on his plea bargain) been sentenced to life in prison without parole. Lest you feel any sympathy for Brogan, lest you believe he played a passive role in all this, here is a poem that the police found on his computer hard drive. Dated August 16, 2011, it commemorates the murder of Ralph Geiger. It is titled “Midnight Shift.”
We took him out to the woods on a
humid summer’s night.
I walked in front of them.
They were going back to the car.
I didn’t turn around.
The loud crack echoed and I didn’t
hear the thud.
The two of us went back to the car
for the shovels.
He was still there when we returned.
He threw the clothes in a garbage
bag along with the personal items.
I dug the hole.
It reached my waist when I was in
it, maybe four feet wide.
We put him in with difficulty,
they call them stiffs for a reason.
We showered him with lime like a
it was like we were excommunicating
him from the world
I thought there would be extra dirt,
he wasn’t a small man.
There wasn’t. I don’t know how.
We drove out of there discarding
evidence as we went
felt terrible until I threw up
in the gas station bathroom where
I was supposed to throw away the bullets and shell.
I emptied myself of my guilt, with
my dinner, but not for long.
When I got home,’ took a shower hotter than hell itself.Prayed like hell that night.
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