A woman called 911 September 13 and stated that she was being held captive in Ashland, Ohio. “I’ve been abducted,” the woman whispered in the call, “Please hurry.”
When police arrived, they rescued the woman but also found two dead bodies. The suspect, Shawn Michael Grate, 40, led police to a third body in neighboring Richland County.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Department has confirmed that they were investigating a fourth case possibly connected to Grate. Police said he confessed to killing the woman and said she was his first kill and he did it because he was upset that she was delivering newspapers and magazines to “everyone’s house but his.” The woman’s unidentified body was found March 10, 2007.
Authorities announced September 19 that they believe a fifth body is also linked to Grate. Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey said Grate “was obviously a serial killer.”
If Grate is convicted, prosecutors said they will seek the death penalty.
This was not Grate’s first run-in with the law. He has a criminal record dating back to 1999 with charges that include burglary, drugs, abduction and domestic violence. He was charged with two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping in the latest turn of events.
Heavy spoke with two men who said they were previously incarcerated with the self-proclaimed killer.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Woman’s 911 Call Led Police to the Discovery of Grate
Police Chief David T. Marcelli said in a press conference that a woman called 911 on Tuesday stating she was being held captive. He said authorities were able to “recover her alive from the scene,” and found the remains of two people at the scene.
You can listen to the desperate call for help above.
The Associated Press reported that Grate knew the woman for about a month and a half before kidnapping her to “engage in sexual activity.”
Grate was arrested and told police there was an additional body at a different location.
Authorities found the third body in a “wooded area near a ravine,” according to a press release.
Grate was reportedly homeless and the property he was found at was a vacant home.
2. A Total of 5 Bodies Have Been Connected to Him, & There May Be More
Police confirmed that one of the bodies found September 13 was that of Stacey Stanley, 43, who was reported missing on September 8, NBC4i reported.
Stanley was reported missing by her son on September 8 after she stopped at a gas station with a flat tire.
Another body discovered on September 13 was identified as Elizabeth Griffith, 29.
Stanley and Griffith’s bodies were discovered at the same property where Grate was found.
On September 29, Grate pleaded not guilty to 23 charges outlined in an indictment, including the murders of Griffith and Stanley, CBS Crimesider reported. He appeared emotionless via video as a judge read the charges against him.
The indictment stated that Grate repeatedly raped the woman who called 911.
The third body found on September 13 is believed to be 29-year-old Candice Cunningham, of Canton, Ohio. Grate led authorities to her body in a wooded area of Richland County. Cunningham and Grate are believed to have known each other, and they even appeared to be Facebook friends:
A Gofundme account has been made to help with services for Cunningham, and you can donate here.
Authorities confirmed that they were investigating a fourth case possibly connected to Grate. Police said he confessed to killing yet another woman, and said she was his first kill. Grate reportedly said he murdered her because he was upset that she wasn’t delivering newspapers and magazines to his mother, who he said ordered the publications. The woman’s unidentified body was found March 10, 2007. Grate told police he killed her between 2005 and 2006, but said he couldn’t remember an exact date. Sheriff Bailey said Grate confessed because he “wanted to get it off his chest.”
Investigators said on September 19 that they connected a fifth body, identified as Rebekah Leicy, 31, to Grate. Her body was found in March of 2015, and police initially thought she died of an overdose. However, Grate said that he strangled the woman to death and dumped her body.
Police expressed concern that there could be more bodies, especially since there was about a 10-year gap between when Grate said he murdered the first woman, and his next suspected kill, Leicy, in March of 2015.
Sheriff Bailey said Grate is “obviously a serial killer,” and stated that “it’s hard to believe others aren’t out there.”
You can see photos and read more about Grate’s alleged victims below:
Heavy spoke with an anonymous source who said he was in prison with Grate around 1999, which was before the murders that are suspected so far. He described Grate as a “pretty normal dude,” who played chess and softball while locked up.
“He spent most of his time watching tv. He was charming…he was like a good, cool dude,” the man said. He added:
I know it’s a cliche but he was a very normal guy, especially when you consider it was prison. He was the only person I loaned my softball cleats to. His mom tells the media that prison took his mind, but I can tell you the truth that he was never beat up or extorted. North Central correctional was not a rough prison in that sense.
The source also said many prisoners believed Grate was homosexual because he was “very close” with an inmate known as Freddie. He said Freddie was openly gay and incarcerated for murder.
“We all knew he [Grate] was gay. Freddie wasn’t constantly by his side for no reason. We knew what they were doing together,” the source said.
Grate’s mother has said prison changed her son, but the man told Heavy he doesn’t think it would’ve negatively affected him. He described the facility as more of a “rehab” than a “hard-core” prison.
Another man who said he spent time in a county jail with Grate also spoke with Heavy. He stated:
When he first came in it was basic talking. Kids, what we did for jobs and so forth. But he was off. The way he’d walk up into people’s conversations and just stand there not say anything. Or we’d be working out and he’d come over, stand there for a few, not say anything and walk off. He stole salt from the kitchen when he became trustee and a bunch of the guys got pissed off at him because they were worried the guards were going to go through everybody’s things.The trustees that had been in the kitchen for months, risked losing their good days if he’d had gotten caught.
He sat by himself most the time, slept quite a bit. Snored crazy loud lol. He was off but not to a point where I’d think this guy kills people. He was like $39,000 in back [child] support, told me it was his 3rd time being arrested for it.
Grate’s mother spoke with the Daily Mail and said she feels awful for the families. “It feels like a nightmare. I pray for the families. It’s like a death to me too and I have to grieve,” she told the publication.
The Ross County Sheriff Department said they are working with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI), the Ohio Missing Women’s Task Forc eand several counties to see if Grate is connected to several other missing or unsolved women’s cases in their area.
Other women have come forward stating that Grate tried luring them into the same property. Bailey Finely, 17, can be seen in the video above. She told the Norwalk Reflector:
He had asked if I wanted to come in after I told him I was having a little bit of a bad day and I was stressed out and my son was sick that night. I had him (my son) with me and he was just running around. He asked if I wanted to come into his house and he told me that he lived right here (the house in front of the laundromat where Stanley’s body was discovered). One thing that I was really thought was weird, though, was that people have told me that both of those places were abandoned but he would always come through the side door (of the house) but everything was always so blocked off (in the front of the house).
A mother and daughter duo also told the Reflector that they were approached by Grate. Lisa Zehner and her daughter, Brittany Lutz, were sitting on a bench September 9 when Gate approached them. He struck up a conversation with the women and at one point asked Lutz if she did drugs and asked if they could hang out. He said he’d buy her beer and gave her his phone number, which she deleted after he walked away.
“He just had this way about him that he could draw people in,” Tim Denis told CBS.
Denis said the friendship crumbled over a bad loan, and afterwards Denis received several angry text messages. He said the last message “still gives him chills.” “Meet the other me,” Grate had texted him.
3. He Has an Extensive Criminal Record & His Ex-Girlfriend Described a Brutal Assault Against Her
Grate was arrested in 1999 after being accused of threatening two women with a butcher knife and blocking their way when they tried to escape, Fox 8 reported.
In 2000 he pleaded guilty to a charge of abduction stemming from the 1999 incident and was sentenced to a maximum of five years of community control.
In June of this year Grate was charged with obstructing official business. At that time he reportedly told police he killed a woman that same month at a property in Richland County, Fox 8 said.
The third body was allegedly found at the same location he described, the station reported.
A woman who said she is the ex-girlfriend of Grate, Christina, told Tiffani Tucker of Cleveland 19 that she was once viciously assaulted by Grate. “He had grabbed me, flipped me over backwards on the end of the bed. I put my hands up, he punched me…broke this hand, he blacked this eye. I had bruises on my face. He strangled me.” she said. Christina described fearing for her life, and said Grate often made “odd comments.” “One Christmas he took pictures of me in tears.”
Authorities said Grate was wanted on a felony child support warrant when he was stopped by police for suspicious behavior on June 20. As a deputy was speaking with a dispatcher, Grate successfully fled the scene. His shoes were found and kept by the sheriff’s department as evidence.
4. He Was Divorced in 2012 & His Ex-Wife Filed a Protective Order Against Him
Grate and his ex-wife divorced in 2012, and she filed an order of protection against him in 2013, according to Fox 8.
Court documents said Grate was accused of threatening his ex-wife and their daughter. The order was granted based on statement he made about “preparing for a grand finale,” and stating that “if I can’t see my daughter then no one can.”
5. He Previously Worked at a Local Hotel & Was Described as ‘Off’
Heavy confirmed with Holiday Inn of Mansfield, Ohio that Grate was previously employed at the location.
“Starting a new job tomorrow really looking forward to help out all I can as a maintenance man for the Holiday Inn!,” Grate posted to Facebook.
It’s not known what time frame he worked at the hotel but his current status said he was “self employed.”
*This story is developing and updates will be made as information becomes available.