Sister of Ohio serial killer Shawn Grate speaks out
On September 13, 2016, emergency personnel in Ashland County, Ohio rushed to a home in response to a 911 call made by a woman who reported she had been abducted three days earlier.
Jane Doe, an alias used to protect her privacy, made the call while her captor was sleeping, PEOPLE reported in 2016. She told the dispatcher that her captor was armed with a taser. His name was Shawn Grate.
Grate was therefore arrested and questioned by Det. Kim Mager of the Ashland Police Department, according to “Living with a Serial Killer” aeration Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen.
Grate’s murderous confession following this interrogation would shock the authorities and the local community: he informed Mager that two dead women were in the house where he had been apprehended.
Police found two decomposing bodies, one in a closet and the other in the basement, as Grate described.
The victims have been identified as 29 years old Elizabeth Griffithwho is said to have mental health issues and disappeared a month earlier, and 43 Stacey Stanleywho was unlucky at the time of his abduction.
“He was going after women, vulnerable women,” former prosecutor Beth Karas said. “He would kidnap them, then sexually abuse them and torture them, not just for hours but sometimes for days before killing them.”
He had made it look like he was going to help Stanley with his flat tire. Instead, he abducted and assaulted her.
“He made videos of himself raping Stacey Stanley,” journalist Mark Caudill, of the Mansfield News Journal, told producers. “It was very disturbing.”
Mager asked Grate to play what he had done to his victims, videotaped demonstrations that provided powerful evidence.
Barbara A. Charter, Grate’s half-sister, had learned of her brother’s arrest on the news. She tried to figure out what drove him to kill, she told producers. Difficult memories resurface. She recalled her parents’ divorce and growing up with a single mother who left her to take care of her siblings. Shawn had learning disabilities and started fires as a child. The one area he excelled at was baseball, but an injury at age 17 sidelined him for good.
Charter called the events “a huge turnaround” for him. Grate did drugs and started running with the wrong crowd, according to “Living with a Serial Killer.” He became a wanderer, rudderless and unwilling to take care of himself, his sister said.
In his account of Grate’s story, the Washington Post reported that he was “briefly married and the father of a daughter”. His wife filed for divorce in 2012, less than a year after they married.
During Mager’s interview with Grate, he confessed to another murder. He said he choked a 29-year-old man Candice Cunningham to death, a woman he had been dating for a while. He took authorities to the wooded area about 12 miles from Ashland where he dumped her body.
He described carrying her body up a hill in a taped interview: “It seems that after she died she was much heavier,” we heard.
When Charter learned of the third victim, she called her mother, Theresa McFarland, who did not answer the phone. McFarland then left a message saying, “Lose my number and never call me again,” according to Charter.
In the interrogation room, Grate also confessed to murdering the 31-year-old Rebecca Leicywho had drug problems and was reported missing in February 2015. His addictions made Leicy easy prey.
“It would target women with low self-esteem,” Charter said.
Three months after Leicy disappeared, her body was found eight miles from Ashland by an employee of a natural gas company.
“The body was fairly well preserved, but some animals had managed to [it]said David Scheurer, a detective with the Mansfield Police Department. DNA, dental records and tattoos were used to identify him.
Grate claimed he agreed to pay Leicy for sex in an abandoned building, but a fight broke out when he learned she had tried to scam him, said Fil Waters, a retired detective .
“She kept fighting and trying to leave,” he said in the taped interview. “I was trying to hold her there and…boom.” Put her to sleep. He made sure she was dead by strangling her.
Charter then visited the location where Leicy’s body was found. Knowing that a young woman’s life ended so violently and that her brother was the cause was heartbreaking for her.
“It’s sad,” Charter said. “I don’t know anything about Rebekah, but I know she was someone’s daughter.”
When asked by Mager, Grate also admitted to murdering a 23-year-old Dana Lowrey, who disappeared in Marion County in 2005.
Decomposed human remains had been found in March 2007, less than a mile from Grate’s family home.
Grate had met Lowrey when she was selling magazines. A subscription she allegedly sold to Grate’s mother never arrived, according to “Living with a Serial Killer.” McFarland complained about it.
“That was enough for Shawn Grate,” Karas said.
He confessed to abducting and killing her, saying he threw the body away, removed all personal belongings and burned it. He watched the news for a year waiting for something to happen, according to retired Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey.
Grate was charged with several murders and the kidnapping of Jane Doe, whose testimony in the case was invaluable.
Grate pleaded guilty to 15 counts, including robbery and kidnapping, but left the remaining eight counts to the jury, nbcnews.com reported in 2018.
Grate was found guilty on all counts. During his sentencing, family members of the victims gave impact statements, including Stacey Stanley’s son, Curtis.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to see you, man,” he said, looking at Grate in the recorded procedure. “It’s a great woman you killed. She meant a lot to me and my brother.
Charter was also at Grate’s sentencing hearing, “just to let him know he’s not alone.”
The grid was sentenced to death and is on death row.
Charter said his brother “is where he belongs”.
For more on the case, including what Grate said in court on the final day of his trial, watch “Living with a Serial Killer” aeration Saturdays at 9/8c on Oxygen or stream episodes here.