On Sept. 22, the Ashland County, Ohio grand jury returned a 23-count indictment in the case of suspected serial killer Shawn Grate. He is being held on $1 million bond for two charges of aggravated murder and connections to three other deaths over the last ten or so years.
Grate was arrested on Tuesday, September 13th, after a frantic woman called 911 and stated that she was being held against her will in a home in Ashland County, 60 miles southwest of Cleveland. After arresting Grate, authorities searched the home and found two bodies. Grate has since confessed to others, and the total body count stands at 5.
Over the course of the last two years, Grate was more or less homeless, a vagrant who moved from place to place. He’d been ousted from a short-lived marriage — the woman has asked to remain nameless, for the sake of herself and her child — and moved around a lot.
It was during this most nomadic period of his life that he befriended two of the victims, Rebekah Leicy and Candice Cunningham. He was known to have contact with a lot of women, namely the prostitutes from the Mansfield, OH area.
He picked me up. I used to prostitute. He used to try and get my sister at (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings to come home with him.
He was shy. He didn’t talk (during sex), and he wanted the lights off. He was lucky to have $10 or $20.
Grate is not your typical quiet, unassuming stereotype of the serial killer. He was kicked out of one residence for trashing the place and for nonpayment of rent. He was arrested for petty drug offenses back in 2013, for which he received a suspended sentence and a small fine. He’s also served time for burglary.
He also has a particularly sordid history with regard to his personal (and not just sexual) relationships. His marriage to a Mansfield woman ended a year after being officiated due to “serious and unfortunate differences.” He called his ex-wife and made ominous threats, after which she filed a restraining order.
He was known to accept the kindness of strangers and acquaintances, and depending on how they viewed it, it was him trying to get a leg up or exploiting the help of those around him.
“Sandy,” an antique store owner, hired Grate as an occasional handyman and allowed him to shower at her house when his house did not have running water or electricity. She views Grate in a largely positive light, though even she admits he got “a little weird” toward the end.
He would stand and stare at you and one time, my cousin came over to the house and he was upstairs and came down and we were having coffee and I had to tell him three times to go about his business before he would stop standing there.
Now, Grate’s crimes have a pretty long tail, if his current confessions can be believed. He has admitted to murdering a woman back in 2005. Though the woman’s identity has never been uncovered, remains consistent with Grate’s statements were found back in 2007. Here’s a description of why Grate murdered the Jane Doe:
Grate said he did not remember the date or the woman’s name. Grate picked her up after recognizing her as the person who had sold magazine subscriptions to his mother, but had not delivered.
The cause of death has not been released, but I’d guess strangulation, given the autopsies of the other victims. Just to recap, here is a quick timeline of Grate’s alleged murders:
- Rebekah Leicy, 31. March 16, 2015. Leicy’s body is found in a wooded area in Ashland County, south of U.S. 30. Her death is initially incorrectly identified as an accidental drug overdose.
- Candice Cunningham [speculatively], 29. A former girlfriend of Grate’s not seen since June, Cunningham’s body was believed to be discovered after Grate admitted to dumping another body. The police are awaiting a DNA match but believe it is the body of Cunningham.
- Elizabeth Griffith, 29. September 13, 2016. One of the bodies recovered at the Covert Court house, where Grate had been holding the kidnapped victim who eventually escaped and called police. Griffith was found “naked and tied up with clothing used as ligatures in a second-floor bedroom closet. Other piles of clothing almost concealed the closet. The door was also fastened with duct tape.”
- Stacey Stanley, 43. September 13, 2016. Stanley was “found face-down under bags of garbage” in the basement of the house on Covert Court. Both women had bruising on their necks consistent with strangulation.