A homeless Ohio man who was charged with two murders last week could now be linked to the slayings of up to five different women.
Shawn M. Grate, 41, was captured earlier this month after a woman he allegedly kidnapped called 911 while he was sleeping. After he was taken into custody, police searched the abandoned house he was occupying and found the bodies of Stacey Stanley, 43, and Elizabeth Griffith, 29.
“These are some of the most horrific crimes I’ve seen in my fifteen years as a criminal prosecutor,” Ashland County Prosecutor Christopher R. Tunnell said in a press release.
Stanley, from Greenwich, Ohio, had been missing since September 8. Griffith was killed between August 16 and September 13, according to court documents.
Grate has been charged with 23 crimes, including two murders, multiple counts of rape, kidnapping, and gross abuse of two corpses. He pleaded not guilty through his attorney at an arraignment Thursday morning. Grate faces two death penalty charges.
‘There wasn’t anything left of her’
However, new information gathered from the investigation could link Grate to three other killings in surrounding areas of north-central Ohio.
After Grate was initially arrested, he led police to a third body found near the rubble of a burned home in Richland County, which neighbors Ashland County. Richland County Chief Investigator Bob Ball said the body had been in the woods since June 6.
“It’ll come down to bone marrow,” Ball said. “There wasn’t anything left of her.”
DNA testing is underway to confirm the body’s identity, but that process could take up to two weeks, according to Richland County Major Joe Masi.
The case of another woman’s death has been reopened since Grate’s arrest, according to the Mansfield Police Department. Rebekah Leicy’s body was found in a wooded area in Ashland County on March 16, 2015. Officials previously believed that Leicy died from a drug overdose, according to the Mansfield Police Department.
The original autopsy, which found that Leicy was a heroin user, ruled her cause of death intoxication by the combined effects of morphine, cocaine and buprenorphine. But it also noted a series of abrasions on her face, arms and right leg.
His first victim?
Grate could also be linked to the slaying of an unidentified woman whose body was found in 2007 in Marion, Ohio. He told investigators she was the first woman he killed.
He described her as “tall, thin, early 20’s, and with good teeth,” according to Marion Police Department Lieutenant Christy Utley.
Officials believe the unidentified woman sold magazine subscriptions in Marion, which is about 60 miles from Ashland County. Grate told investigators that he lured the woman into his car by pretending to purchase magazines from her, Utley said.
He said he then stabbed her and hid her body in the basement of his Marion residence at the time, according to Utley. Grate told investigators he killed the woman after his mother was upset she hadn’t received her magazines.
Grate is being held in the Ashland County Jail on $1 million bond. His lawyer did not wish to comment on the ongoing investigation.