A man said Wednesday that he interviewed for a farm job posted on Craigslist that authorities believe was used to lure people into a deadly robbery scheme, and he identified the interviewer as one of two people who are in custody.
Investigators have said one man lured to the nonexistent job was found dead last week and a second reported he escaped after being shot on Nov. 6. The FBI said Tuesday that a third man was missing.
Ron Sanson, of Stow, said he responded to the ad and met the interviewer at a shopping mall food court outside Akron on Oct. 10. Sanson 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 says, whose disappearance might not be quickly noticed.
Sanson, 58, and the missing man, 47-year-old Timothy Kern, of Massillon, were both divorced. So was a Virginia man found dead in the area of Noble County where a man from South Carolina reported being shot and injured before escaping. Norfolk, Va., resident David Pauley, 51, was shot in the head in a homicide, according to his death certificate.
"How many other people have filled out an application, met with the guy, you know, and no one knows they're gone?" said Sanson, an unemployed construction contractor. "This guy could've been doing this for, you know, a long time, for a month now and then getting away with it, and no one would know about it because people aren't going to be checking up on it."
Law enforcement officials, who initially said the dead victim was from Florida, have released few details because of a judge's gag order. The Noble County sheriff previously said it was unclear how long the ad was online or whether there were other victims.
A high school student from the Akron area has been charged with attempted murder. While his name appears in court documents, The Associated Press generally does not report the names of minors charged with crimes.
The adult whom Sanson identified as his interviewer, 52-year-old Richard Beasley, of Akron, remained in jail Wednesday on unrelated charges and couldn't be reached for comment.
Beasley's mother has said he has "a very caring heart" and was a mentor to the teenager who was charged. Carol Beasley said she spoke to her son and prays that a newspaper report that he's a suspect isn't true.
"The most I can say is this is just a big shock to us," she said in a telephone interview a few days ago. "I pray it's some other person and not him."
Sanson said he filled out an application during the mall meeting and talked for about 20 minutes with Beasley, who appeared to be alone and wore a T-shirt, a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. He said they chatted about a job that Sanson found extremely appealing _ getting $300 a week to oversee a swath of land a mile away from the nearest neighbor and living rent-free in a provided two-bedroom trailer with opportunities to hunt and fish and free access to ATVs in the summer and snowmobiles in the winter.
Beasley said about 100 people had applied and he planned to interview several that day, said Sanson, who returned to the food court after his interview and spotted someone else apparently interviewing with Beasley.
He said the only thing he found odd during the interview was that Beasley couldn't give the highway exit for finding the farm.
"If I owned 688 acres, I would know exactly what exit I got to get off at to get to the place," he said.
Sanson said Beasley told him if he were offered the job he'd have to start within a week of the interview.
"I said, `No problem. Just give me the address where it is. I'll be there,'" Sanson said.
But he didn't hear back and didn't think much more about the job until he picked up the newspaper last weekend and saw a story about the investigation linked to the online ad. He said he has since contacted the FBI.