Grate Trial Sentencing verdict

Shawn Grate looks to the gallery at the family members of Elizabeth Griffith and Stacey Stanley as Judge Ronald P. Forsthoefel reads the jury sentencing verdict forms during the sentencing phase of the trial Friday, May 18, 2018 in Ashland County Common Pleas Court. Tom E. Puskar, Times-Gazette.com

MANSFIELD -- The court odyssey of convicted murderer and accused serial killer Shawn Grate continues in Mansfield on Tuesday.

A pre-trial hearing in the Richland County case has been scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Sept. 25 and is not open to the public. Grate pleaded not guilty earlier this month to 14 new felony charges, this time in Richland County. 

Grate's first appearance in Richland County Common Pleas Court was held via video conference Sept. 13, exactly two years after he was arrested in Ashland.

It was also the same day Ashland County Common Pleas Judge Ron Forsthoefel had symbollically chosen as Grate's execution date for the murders of Stacey Stanley and Elizabeth Griffith. An automatic, direct appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court has been filed in that case, stalling the death penalty.  

The Richland County grand jury indictment accuses Grate of 14 felony offenses related to the alleged killing of two Mansfield women in 2015 and 2016.

Included in the charges are counts of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping (2), tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse, all stemming from Grate's alleged murder of Mansfield woman Rebekah Leicy. Leicy's body was found on Ashland County Road 1908 in March 2015, about a month after she was reported missing. Leicy's death was ruled a drug overdose, but officials reopened the case following Grate's arrest after Grate began confessing to crimes in Ashland, Richland and Marion counties. 

Also included in the indictment are charges related to the alleged murder of Candace Cunningham, including aggravated murder (2), arson, aggravated arson, kidnapping, tampering with evidence (2) and gross abuse of a corpse. Cunningham's body was found behind a burned out house on Park Avenue East in Richland County's Madison Township on Sept. 13, 2016, the same day Grate was arrested in Ashland County. 

Richland County Prosecutor Gary Bishop said he always wanted to seek justice for the Richland County victims, but he agreed to wait until the Ashland County case concluded before pursuing charges in Richland County. The reason, he said, was because he believed pretrial publicity would have be too great if both cases prceeded at once, possibly necessitating a resource-intensive change-of-venue. 

In May, when Grate stood trial in Ashland County, a jury found him guilty of four counts of aggravated murder, three counts of kidnapping and one count of aggravated robbery. 

He also pleaded guilty during the trial to each of 15 other counts in the 23-count indictment, including four counts of rape, two counts of gross abuse of a corpse, four counts of burglary, tampering with evidence, unauthorized use of a vehicle, one of the kidnapping counts, robbery and breaking and entering.

Through those guilty pleas, Grate admitted to kidnapping and raping an Ashland woman who was able to escape the house where Grate was holding her and call 911, leading to Grate's arrest. 

In addition to the two murders for which he has already been convicted and the two alleged murders for which he will be tried in Richland County, Grate is accused of a fifth murder in Marion County. The victim there has not been identified. 

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