AKRON, Ohio (AP) — Seeking to have jurors spare her son's life, the mother of a triple killer who lured his victims with Craigslist job offers testified Wednesday that he had a troubled childhood and suffered physical and sexual abuse.
"I love Richard with all my heart," a teary-eyed Carol Beasley testified during the sentencing phase of the trial of her son, 53-year-old Richard Beasley. He was convicted last week of killing three men and wounding a fourth, all lured with offers of farmhand jobs in southeast Ohio in 2011.
The same jury must decide whether to recommend the death penalty. The other options are life in prison without the chance of parole or life with a chance for parole after 25 or 30 years.
Beasley's co-defendant, then 16 years old, was too young to face the death penalty. Brogan Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole on his conviction last year.
In an opening statement, prosecutor Jonathan Baumoel said the "enormous" weight of Beasley's crimes should be considered in deciding on life or death.
The defense responded by calling witnesses to portray Beasley sympathetically in a bid to have the jury recommend prison as his punishment.
As his mother testified, Beasley slumped forward, his chin on his chest and his right hand covering his eyes.
She described a difficult childhood for her son, with a verbally and physically abusive stepfather whom Carol Beasley characterized as a mean drunk.
She testified that she learned only within the past year that her son had been sexually abused by neighborhood youngsters when he was a boy. She had known that the boys had forced him to remove his pants in a large drainage pipe but hadn't known about the abuse at the time, she said.
"I always felt there was much more than he told me," she testified. Her son apparently kept the abuse secret out of fear he would be held responsible for it, the mother said.
Her first husband neglected Richard and her, Carol Beasley testified, and her second husband broke dishes and a window while drinking and whipped Richard as a toddler. "Richard was very mistreated by him," she testified.
Carol Beasley testified that Richard and the couple's own two daughters would be put to bed early and sometimes were sent to relatives for the weekend to avoid contact with the father.
"Everybody was afraid when he came home," she said.
The defense also called a psychologist, John Fabian, who testified that Beasley suffers from depression, alcohol abuse, low self-esteem and a feeling of isolation, all possible results of a troubled, abusive childhood.
"These are all potential mitigating factors" in favor of leniency, Fabian testified.
Fabian said Beasley's issues should be considered in multi-generational terms involving him and his family life. "This is all his personality development," he said.
One of Beasley's victims was killed near Akron, and the others were shot at a southeast Ohio farm during bogus job interviews.
The slain men were Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron; David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Va.; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon.
The survivor, Scott Davis, testified that he heard the click of a gun as he walked in front of Beasley at the reputed job site. Davis, who was shot in an arm, knocked the weapon aside, fled into the woods and tipped police.
Beasley, who returned to Ohio from Texas in 2004 after serving several years in prison on a burglary conviction, testified that he met with Davis and Davis had pulled a gun in retaliation for Beasley serving as a police informant.