ASHLAND – Murder suspect Shawn Grate faces a total of 23 felony charges including four counts of aggravated murder which carries a death penalty specification after an Ashland County grand jury issued an indictment Thursday.
Ashland County Prosecutor Chris Tunnell announced the new charges Thursday afternoon via Twitter.
“These are some of the most horrific crimes I’ve seen in my 15 years as a criminal prosecutor,” Tunnell said after the indictment was released. “Given these depraved actions and the gruesome evidence, I will be strongly recommending the death penalty if a jury finds this defendant guilty.”
Grate, 40, also faces four counts of kidnapping, two counts of gross abuse of a corpse, four counts of rape, four counts of burglary, and one count each of tampering with evidence, aggravate robbery, unauthorized use of a vehicle, robbery and breaking and entering.
According to the indictment, there are two counts of aggravated murder for each identified victim, one for the murder and one because the murder was committed during a kidnapping.
Grate is scheduled to appear in Ashland County Common Pleas Court on Sept. 29 at 8:30 a.m for a video arraignment.
In addition to the charges that are death penalty eligible (one for each of the two murders), the maximum prison sentence that could be given for conviction of all these crimes is 166 years. Ashland County has had only two death penalty eligible murders in the last 20 years: Maxwell White in 1996 for the murder of State Highway Patrol Trooper James Gross and Brian Siler in 2001 who was convicted of murdering his wife.
All 23 counts in the Grate indictment are related to the three Ashland County victims.
The tampering with evidence charge alleges Grate attempted to destroy or conceal a key, a cellphone and a Yahtzee game sheet.
The breaking and entering charge alleges Grate tried to force entry into the Mifflin Flea Market between July 10 and 11. Two of the burglary charges are related to Grate allegedly breaking into two trailers at Charles Mill Park between June 19 and 30.
Grate is being held in Ashland County Jail on $1 million bond after initially being charged with two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping. He pleaded not guilty Monday to the charges.
Grate was arrested Sept. 13 after a woman called 911 and said she was being held against her will in a home near East Fourth Street in Ashland. Upon their arrival, police found the woman and Grate. The woman is not being identified because she is a sexual assault victim and the Ashland County Prosecutor does not identify victims of sexual assault.
Grate was taken into custody and police and BCI investigators searched the two homes on Covert Court, near the Fourth Street Laundromat. Two bodies were discovered in one of the homes. The victims were identified as 43-year-old Stacey Stanley of Greenwich and 29-year old Elizabeth Griffith of Ashland.
Grate also led investigators to a body in a wooded area near a burned-out home on Park Avenue East in Madison Township. Authorities have not yet identified the victim.
Earlier this week, Mansfield Police announced they have re-opened the investigation into the death of Mansfield resident Rebekah Leicy. Leicy was reported missing in February of 2015 and her body was found in rural Ashland County in March 2015. Her death was ruled as a probable drug overdose by the Cuyahoga County Coroners Office as there were no signs of physical trauma.
Grate has also been tied to a 2005 murder in Marion County. He reportedly admitted to authorities that he killed a woman there in 2005. On March 10, 2007, Marion County authorities discovered the remains of a woman who has never been identified.
Tunnell led the Grand Jury investigation and will prosecute the case along with First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Gary P. Bishop and Special Prosecutor Mark R. Weaver.
According to the website for the law firm Isaac Wiles where Weaver is a partner, prior to entering private practice, Weaver was the Deputy Attorney General of Ohio. The website states Weaver is often asked to act as a Special Prosecutor in criminal cases around the state and has prosecuted murderers, rapists, child molesters, and other violent criminals. He teaches Criminal Procedure and Constitutional Law to the Ohio Public Safety Leadership Academy and has been a featured speaker to the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.