CLEVELAND (AP) — A body found Friday in a shallow grave near a mall in Akron, Ohio, may be a second killing connected to a phony Craigslist job listing that lured victims into a deadly robbery scheme, according to the FBI, which has checked up on applicants to see if they're still alive.
The body was found Friday within sight of the Rolling Acres shopping mall, agency spokeswoman Vicki Anderson told The Associated Press.
The cause of death and identity are under investigation, but the FBI is working on the supposition that the body may be that of Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, who hasn't been seen in more than a week, Anderson said.
"Do we think it might be? Maybe," Anderson said. "He's missing. We haven't been able to find him. It could possibly be, but we just don't know that yet."
Anderson declined to specify how authorities discovered the body, saying only it was through "information."
Kern answered the same ad for a farm hand that authorities say led to the shooting death of Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley, 51, in a rural area 90 miles south of Akron. A South Carolina man reported answering the ad but managing to escape after being shot Nov. 6.
Two people from the Akron area are in custody: a high school student who has been charged with attempted murder and 52-year-old Richard Beasley, who is in jail on unrelated charges.
Agents have contacted individuals to check on their well-being, FBI spokesman Harry Trombitas said Friday in an email.
One was Heather Tuttle, of Ravenna, who applied for the job Oct. 7 but never got a response. She had forgotten about the posting until an FBI agent called and left a message for her Monday.
When she called back, she was stunned at what the agent told her.
"It could have been me," said Tuttle, 27, who has since taken work as an assistant manager at a gas station.
"When the situation was explained to me, it just instantly made me sick and made me realize how lucky I am that I didn't get a response back," she said.
Another man who responded to the ad has said he met Beasley at a food court at a different mall in the Akron area on Oct. 10. Ron Sanson, of Stow, was told the man was looking for an older, single or divorced person to watch over a 688-acre farm in southeast Ohio — the kind of man, Sanson said, whose disappearance might not be quickly noticed.
Sanson and Kern are both divorced. So was Pauley.
Sanson, 58, said he filled out an application and talked for about 20 minutes with Beasley about a $300-a-week job overseeing a swath of land a mile from the nearest neighbor and living rent-free in a two-bedroom trailer with opportunities to hunt and fish, as well as free access to ATVs and snowmobiles.
Law enforcement officials have released few details because of a judge's gag order. The sheriff in Noble County, where Pauley and the South Carolina man were shot, previously said it was unclear how long the ad was online or whether there were other victims.
Associated Press writers JoAnne Viviano and Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Columbus contributed to this report.