COLUMBUS — The discoveries of two new bodies could bring to three the death toll from a Craigslist ad that police say lured victims into a lethal robbery scheme.
A body found Friday in a shallow grave near a mall in Akron may be that of a missing man who answered the ad, the FBI said. And a sheriff in a rural county said later in the day that the body of a white male without identification was found in a shallow grave about 90 miles away.
The FBI is working on the supposition that the body found near the Rolling Acres shopping mall in Akron may be that of 47-year-old Timothy Kern, who hasn't been seen in more than a week, agency spokeswoman Vicki 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.
Kern, of Massillon, 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 of Nobel County 90 miles south of Akron. A South Carolina man reported answering the ad and being shot Nov. 6 but escaping.
Noble County Sheriff Steve Hannum is under a judge's gag order and can't comment on the case, but the title of his emailed announcement late Friday — "second body" — implied the discovery was connected with Pauley's death.
Neighbors where Pauley's body was found last week and the second body was found Friday said police had been in the area and a helicopter had been overhead most of the day but the scene was quiet late in the day.
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.
Beasley's mother has said he has "a very caring heart" and she prays that newspaper reports he is a suspect are wrong.
FBI agents have contacted people 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 and free access to ATVs and snowmobiles.
The farm advertised on Craigslist does not exist; the area where the bodies were found in Noble County is property owned by a coal company and often leased to hunters.
Law enforcement officials have released few details because of the gag order. Hannum, 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.