Suspected Ohio serial killer Shawn Grate, 40, officially entered a plea of not guilty at Ashland County Common Pleas court on Monday. Grate has been charged with murder and kidnapping. WKYC reports that Grate also just confessed to an additional killing, from 2005, on Monday, saying that she was the first woman he’d ever killed.
According to Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey, Grate said the woman, who was in her twenties, had been selling magazines door-to-door when he allegedly killed her. In 2007, a man found human remains at a dumping site on Victory Road. Grate claims to have killed the woman and taken her to that dumping ground, the sheriff said. Grate told police during his confession that he thinks the woman’s name was Diana or Diane, but he wasn’t sure.
At the time of the victim’s death, Grate says he was living in a home that is now occupied by new owners. He did not want to give the address to disrupt where they were living, WKYC adds. Bailey said, “He’s obviously a serial killer. We all want to take a close look at where he was at and what he was doing between the time our body was found and the one in Ashland County, so that’s kind of where we’re at.” It’s possible Grate could be responsible for even more deaths.
Investigators closed in on Grate after a woman escaped from a home in Ashland and called 911 last week from Grate’s cell phone. WKYC said the victim, who was never officially reported missing, said she was being held against her will. Grate was arrested at a gas station close to his house, reports add. In a terrifying 911 call, the victim told the dispatcher, “I’ve been kidnapped.”
According to a Washington Post report, the dispatcher asked the woman who had kidnapped her and she said, “Shawn Grate.” When she was asked where the alleged kidnapper was, she said he was sleeping in the bedroom and that she was right next to him. According to a court document, the purpose of the kidnapping was “to engage in sexual activity.”Two dead bodies found inside the house have been identified as 43-year-old Stacey Stanley and 29-year-old Elizabeth Griffith. The report said both had vanished only weeks prior to the deadly discoveries, but their causes of death has not been released. Grate himself then led authorities to a third body at a burned out house. The remains located have not been positively identified, reports note. Christina Hildreth has come forward, claiming to have dated Grate for five years, and said that there was something about him that “just made your skin crawl.” She said that Grate wouldn’t just get angry; he was “more like evil.” Hildreth recalls one Christmas when she said Grate took pictures of her in tears for kicks, and that he enjoyed the things he was doing. She also said if she hadn’t escaped their relationship, she believes she would have been one of his victims.
The Daily Mail also claims to have connected with a woman Grate was once in a relationship with, someone who is the mother to his “several children.” She spoke to the publication under the condition of anonymity. She said, “For a while the relationship seemed perfect to me. I was infatuated with him. He showed me attention, he was charming – he said what he knew you needed or wanted to hear. I was in love with him.” This was, until she says, he became controlling and abusive. “But he’s a very jealous man and he’s very controlling. People would tell me to leave him, to get out, that he was bad news, and I would deny that he ever did anything to me – even when he was hurting me real bad,” the woman adds.
According to Richland Source, a woman identified as Grate’s ex-wife, Amber Nicole Bowman, said, “I have been estranged from my ex-husband for four years, and he is not a part of our lives. My prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones to these horrific acts.” The report says the woman and Grate were married for one year and have one child together. The same report said he also fathered a son in 1996 with another woman. It’s unclear how many children Grate has fathered.
KSLA said the homes where Grate was living were most likely abandoned, and investigators believe he was a squatter. News on 6 said Grate was assigned an attorney by the court after he claimed he doesn’t have a job, a home, or any money.
The Richland Source says they’ve dug up criminal history on Grate in Mainsfield dating back to 2012. The publication says he’s faced a number of charges over the years from theft to probation violation, to being charged with criminal mischief for allegedly writing “cheese” on a woman’s window.
Grate is expected to appear in court again on September 29. He will remain behind bars with a bond set at $1 million, reports add.
Main photo: Shawn Grate’s mug shot [Ashland Police Department]