By Kim Palmer
AKRON (Reuters) - Jurors in the trial of an Ohio teenager accused in a murder plot that used a Craigslist ad to lure some victims began deliberations on Thursday after closing arguments depicted the defendant alternately as either a willing accomplice or a youthful pawn.
Prosecutors painted Brogan Rafferty, 17, as a knowing partner to Richard Beasley, the 53-year-old accused triggerman in the case. Both suspects are charged with the murders of three men found buried in shallow graves around Ohio last year.
Jonathan Baumoel, the assistant prosecuting attorney, likened Rafferty to the getaway driver in a bank robbery. He said the teenager was a "mobster wannabe" who was obsessed with organized crime and conducted Internet searches using terms like "first kill."
Rafferty, who was 16 when he was arrested and is being tried as an adult, faces up to life in prison if convicted of killing David Pauley, 51, of Norfolk, Virginia; Ralph Geiger, 56, of Akron, Ohio; and Timothy Kern, 47, of Massillon, Ohio.
Two of the three dead men had answered an ad on Craigslist, the free online classified site, touting a $300-a-week job south of Akron, Ohio. At trial, prosecutors said nearly 100 people had responded to the phony posting.
Beasley is scheduled to stand trial in January. He was already facing drug and prostitution charges in Ohio as well as a probation violation charge in Texas, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Defense attorneys, by contrast, called Rafferty a "pawn" and continually reminded jurors of the defendant's age and lack of a stable home life, calling him "a 16-year-old child who found himself in a horrible situation."
Rafferty took the stand Tuesday and told jurors he was terrified that Beasley would kill him or his family.
Defense attorney John Alexander called Beasley a monster who preyed on vulnerable people and betrayed Rafferty by threatening the life of his mother and sister after he shot his first victim, Ralph Geiger.
"This guy is threatening this family," Alexander said. "Does that sound like a partner?"
Jurors met for about two hours after closing arguments Thursday to decide Rafferty's fate. They are expected to resume those deliberations on Friday.
In other incidents involving Craigslist and other social media, people advertising goods for sale have been attacked and killed as have those responding to ads.
In 2009, a former medical student was accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist. And in February, two men in Tennessee were accused of killing a man and a woman for "defriending" the daughter of one of the suspects on Facebook.
(Editing by James B. Kelleher)