Craigslist victim’s son testifies about last time he saw father

Tim Kern
Craigslist victim’s son testifies about last time he saw father
Beacon Journal
Ed Meyer
28 February 2013

Nicholas Kern last saw his father on a Saturday night, when Timothy Kern visited the home of his ex-wife in Plain Township to pick up an old television for an important trip he was about to make to southern Ohio.
His father needed some money, so Nick Kern said he lent him $20.

It was Nov. 12, 2011, and Tim Kern was finalizing plans to meet the man who had given him what he thought was a new job, for $300 per week and a place to live, as caretaker of a large farm in Noble County.

Kern, 47, never made it there.

On the fourth day of prosecution testimony in the capital murder trial of Richard James Beasley of Akron, Nick Kern, 19, calmly told a Summit County jury how he and his father parted ways.

He testified that a friend picked him up that Saturday night at his mother’s home, and some time later, he sent a text to his dad wishing him good luck and telling him “that I loved him.”

The next morning Tim Kern sent his son, who was sleeping in, a text with the same loving message. Nick Kern said he never heard from his father again.

Investigators in the so-called Craigslist murder case eventually learned Kern was shot to death that same day, Nov. 13, 2011, soon after meeting his “new employer” at the old Rolling Acres Mall off Romig Road in Akron.

Kern’s body was found in woods behind the mall nearly two weeks later, on Nov. 25 — after the FBI had traced cellphone calls and arrested Beasley as a murder suspect.

Ed Staley Jr., a crime-scene investigator for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, testified that about 50 officers searched the woods and found the body in a hand-dug pit with the help of a cadaver dog.

Dr. Lisa J. Kohler, chief Summit County medical examiner, told the jury that Kern had multiple gunshot wounds to the head. His name was found imprinted on the inside of his upper dentures, she said.

Multiple charges

Beasley, 53, is charged with three counts of aggravated murder and other crimes. Prosecutors have said he preyed on his victims — four men down on their luck and out of work — after they responded to his ad on Craigslist for the bogus farm job.

The body of Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, was discovered in a shallow grave near a country road in Noble County on the same day Kern’s body was found in southwest Akron.

Geiger was the first victim. He was shot Aug. 9, 2011.

David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va., was the next victim. He was shot Oct. 23, and his body was found, some three weeks later, near the same country road.

Lone survivor

The third shooting victim, Scott Davis, 50, was the lone survivor. He previously testified that he ran for his life and got away after Beasley shot him in the right elbow in the same wooded area where the bodies of Geiger and Pauley were found.

Davis gave investigators much of the information that led them to Beasley and his young co-defendant, Brogan Rafferty, of Stow, who was 16 at the time of the crimes.

Late last year, Rafferty was convicted of three counts of aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

Beasley’s lead attorney, James L. Burdon, told the jury in opening statements the government will not be able to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

“There is no witness that this defendant committed any of those murders, period,” Burdon said.

Prosecutors on Thursday continued to present their substantial circumstantial evidence.

Son testifies

Nick Kern testified that he used his mother’s vehicle to drive his dad to the job interview with his “new employer,” because his dad’s car, an old Buick, often did not start.

The interview was Nov. 9, 2011, at the Waffle House on Arlington Road in Akron. They were supposed to be looking for a man with a red cap and an American flag on it, Nick Kern said.

Three Ohio men previously testified they also discussed the farm job in interviews at Akron’s Chapel Hill Mall. All three identified Beasley in open court as the person who conducted the interviews.

George Brown of Doylestown, the last of the three to testify about his job interview, told the jury that the man he talked to at Chapel Hill was wearing “a red flag cap.”

Beasley’s arrest occurred near the corner of Gridley and Johnston streets in Akron, according to testimony, following an FBI stakeout. At that time, he was renting a room from a woman, Penny Rose Kaufman, who owned a home in the 400 block of Gridley Street.

Kaufman testified Thursday afternoon that she rented out the room on Nov. 1, 2011, to a man who told her his name was Ralph Geiger. She then identified Beasley, seated at the defense table in a wheelchair, as the man who used Geiger’s name.

When asked whether she recalled seeing that same man using a wheelchair at her home on Gridley, she told the prosecutor: “No.”

Beasley’s trial continues today in Common Pleas Judge Lynne Callahan’s courtroom.

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