American serial murderer Shawn Michael Grate, who was born on August 8, 1976, to parents Terry Grate and Theresa McFarland, is suspected of killing and abusing five women in different parts of Ohio. He is known to perform these crimes using the second name “Michael,” leading potential victims to believe that he might be a relative or someone who had previously helped them.
Grate pleaded guilty to two counts of murder in 2018. He acknowledged killing Ashland, Ohio residents Stacey Stanley, 43, and Elizabeth Griffith, 29, both of them. Additionally, Shawn Grate was found guilty of the murders of Candice Cunningham, 29, and Rebecca Leicy, 31, in Richland County, and he got a life sentence for murdering Dana Lowrey. With his bare hands or a ligature (i.e., nylons or neckties), he strangled all of his victims to death.
Shawn Grate was a nice guy – charming, funny, charismatic, and adored by women. Making women fall for him was his strongest talent. However, his charm and good looks couldn’t change the fact that he was cruel, sadistic, full of rage, and violent.
According to reports, Shawn Grate was an extremely sociable child. However, a court-appointed psychiatrist characterized Shawn Grate as a “depressed child” who suffered from “neglect and emotional alienation” as a child.
When he was just six years old, Shawn Grate’s parents divorced. Shawn apparently struggled in school, especially in his formative years, and at one time in his early years, he was held back from kindergarten and first grade. He was described as being very pleasant and kind despite these difficulties and is claimed to have established a reputation for being this way during his time as a young boy.
The victim, who was only given the name “Jane Doe” in the indictment, dialed 911 after being held captive by Shawn Grate for three days in a home in Ashland. During that time, the woman had been shackled to a bed, sexually assaulted, and threatened with death. The Ashland Police Department successfully saved the woman, and she then hired a lawyer. The law enforcement chose not to release the victim’s identity because she had been sexually assaulted.
43-year-old Stacey Stanley, also known as Stacey Hicks, was reported missing by her family and her body was found in the Ashland home where Shawn Grate was arrested. Her autopsy concluded that she died of strangulation.
Before Shawn Grate was found by authorities, Elizabeth Griffith had been missing for approximately a month. At the Yellow Ashland residence where Grate was detained, her lifeless body was discovered. She had most likely been strangled by Shawn Grate, according to an autopsy report.
Candice Marie Cunningham
Grate acknowledged dismembering Candice Cunningham when he was brought in for questioning. After directing them there, authorities discovered her body on November 1, 2016, hidden behind a nearby house that had previously burned down.
Shawn Grate said that he strangled Rebecca after she stole $4 from him at work when her death was discovered in March 2015.
In 2007, Shawn Grate admitted to murdering an unnamed female victim. Later, Dana Nicole Lowrey, 23, of Minden, Louisiana, was revealed to be the victim.
How Shawn Grate was caught
Shawn Grate was finally caught when one of his victims managed to call the police while he was sleeping. Grate and the unnamed woman knew each other and they were friends, often going on walks or tennis games together. Grate tried to date her, but she refused his advances and tried to keep their relationship platonic. On September 11, 2016, Shawn Grate lured her to his home under the pretense of giving her some clothes.
Once they arrived at his home, Grate quickly changed his behavior from friendly to violent. He overpowered the victim and tied her with ropes, before proceeding to rape her for three days. On the third day, Grate fell asleep and his victim used this as an opportunity to call the police. At one point, he almost woke up, but fortunately, fell asleep again.
When the police arrived to rescue the victim and arrested Grate, he claimed that he didn’t plant to kill the woman, instead – they were supposed to get married.
In 2017, Shawn Grate was subjected to a competency hearing to determine if he was fit to stand the trial, and the hearing showed that e was competent enough. In 2018, Shawn Grate, after admitting to killing at least five women in three counties in Ohio, received two death sentences. After confessing to the murder of Elizabeth Liz Griffith, 29, and Stacy Hicks
In Richland County, Shawn Grate was also found guilty of killing Candice Cunningham, 29, and Rebecca Leicy, 31. All of his victims were strangled to death either with his bare hands or a ligature (i.e., nylons or neckties). In addition, Shawn Grate received a sentence of life in prison for strangling Dana Nicole Lowrey in 2006; her body was discovered in Marion County in 2007.
The Ohio Supreme Court has twice upheld Shawn Grate’s death sentence. The federal and state highest courts review death penalty cases in addition to direct appeal (a process known as a collateral appeal). Grate asserted that his trial attorneys, Robert Whitney and Rolf Whitney, were ineffective at this point in the appeals process, and thus, he didn’t receive a fair trial.
In 2021, Grate found a new attorney, in an attempt to reopen his death penalty case and overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. He believes that he didn’t receive proper effective assistance and counsel on appeal.
Justice Michael Donelly, although agreeing with the court’s opinion, stated that numerous mistakes were made during Grate’s trial, including a failure to present certain evidence during the mitigation phase of Grate’s capital proceedings.