Sheriff calls homicide suspect “serial killer” after fourth body discovered

Shawn Grate linked to deaths in Ashland, Richland and Marion counties, according to investigators.

Shawn Grate, via Ashland County Sheriff's Office
Shawn Grate, via Ashland County Sheriff's Office

MARION COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) – A man charged with murder in Ashland County has confessed to another murder in Marion County, according to investigators.

Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey said when officials in Ashland County were putting Shawn Grate, 40, in jail for murder charges there, he confessed to murdering a woman in the mid-2000s in Marion County and dumping her body.

“We have followed up on leads over the last nine years, and until last week, we’ve got nowhere,” Bailey said.

When Grate told investigators about that woman, who he said was the first woman he’d killed, Bailey said he knew right away which case it was.

“Typically there’s some type of identifying feature,” Bailey said. “There’s clothes or ID or something. This one had nothing.”

Skeletal remains of a woman investigators believed to be Caucasian were found in a wooded area off Victory Road in Marion County, northeast of the city, in March 2007. Grate told investigators he believed he had murdered her sometime between 2003 and 2005.

According to Bailey, Grate told investigators the woman, who was in her mid-20s, sold magazines. Grate’s mother had ordered some, but they were never delivered.

“So a few months later, Grate saw this same young woman,” Bailey said. “He got her into his car by telling her he wanted to buy some magazines. He took her to a residence south of the city of Marion where he took her into the house. He stabbed her, and then he hid her in the basement for two days. Then he took the body out to Victory Road where he dumped the body.”

Grate confessed to stabbing the woman once in the neck. He also told investigators he returned about a year later to burn the remains in order to destroy DNA evidence.

The woman’s remains were entered into an FBI database and other national bulletins, but Bailey said none of the hits over the years had ever matched up. According to Bailey, his office released a composite sketch of the woman when the remains were found, but Grate told them it didn’t look like her.

With the new murder charges in Ashland County, Bailey said he considers Grate a serial killer. He also noted Grate had a criminal history in Marion. He said he wouldn’t be surprised if there turned out to be other victims.

“When you start at 2003, 2004, and you kill somebody and you’re still doing it in 2016, I’m just saying, in my experience, there’s got to be something in between there, that I would be looking for some more dead bodies,” Bailey said.

Grate has not been charged with murder in the Marion County case. Bailey said his first priority is to identify the victim and notify her relatives. He said the information from Grate seems to be credible and he believes Grate was involved.

Bailey also noted Grate told investigators he believes the woman was from Ohio and that her name began with a “D” – possibly Diane or Dana.

NBC4 spoke Monday night by phone with Sandra Stanley, the stepmother of Stacey Stanley, who was one of the women found dead inside the house in Ashland and with whose murder Grate is charged.

“Just gets worse and worse, doesn’t it?” Sandra Stanley said.

Stanley said when her family heard the news, they wondered whether there would be more victims.

“We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, this guy should’ve been caught years ago,’” Stanley said.

While her family is heartbroken and feels for the other families involved, Stanley said she was thankful Stacey’s disappearance and death prompted investigators to find out what happened to other victims.

“We were there looking for her and had we not found her and been searching for her—the fact that we did find her kind of put a closure to all these other victims that have had heartbreak and worry for years now,” Stanley said.

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