More than 350 prospective jurors were brought in for initial questioning, however, as selection began it became obvious that finding an unbiased jury may be a difficult task, according to the Ashland Source’s report.
The first of eight groups of jurors spent about four hours in the Ashland County Common Pleas courtroom as Judge Ron Forsthoefel read Grate’s 23 felony charges and questioned the group.
About 18 people were dismissed from the first group alone for cause, the Source reported.
The newspaper also reported that while some potential jurors were dismissed for medical or school-related reasons, several were sent away after they admitted to having preconceived opinions which they felt would influence them during the trial.
"I've heard the 9-1-1 tape and there's no way that I could be unbiased about this," one prospective juror told the Source. "I have a hatred for this man that I don't even know."
The judge told the newspaper he expected jury selection to take about two weeks before a final 12-member jury is selected, along with five alternates.
The case’s opening arguments are expected to begin April 23, the Source said, with the trial phase taking up to two weeks. Jurors will be sequestered during deliberations until they reach a verdict, Forsthoefel told the newspaper.
Grate, who remains incarcerated in the Ashland County Jail, previously had been found competent to stand trial.
“These are some of the most horrific crimes I’ve seen in my 15 years as a criminal prosecutor,” Prosecutor Christopher Tunnell said previously. “Given these depraved actions and the gruesome evidence, I will be strongly recommending the death penalty if a jury finds this defendant guilty.”
Grate is accused of killing Ashland resident Elizabeth Griffith and Stanley, the bodies of whom were found last year in a vacant Ashland home. He was arrested after a third woman called 9-1-1, saying she had been abducted by Gates and was being held captive in the house.
The 23-count indictment filed against Grate accuses him, among other things, of kidnapping, robbing, raping and murdering Stanley (also known as Stacy Hicks) and then abusing her corpse.
During his interview with Ashland police, Grate provided information that led authorities to a woman’s remains in Richland County’s Madison Township. The remains, which haven’t been identified, were found in a ravine near a burned-out house.
Grate reportedly has confessed to another crime — the murder of a woman in Marion County between 2003 and 2005. He claims the woman, who hasn’t yet been identified, was the first person he killed. A set of female skeletal remains were found in 2007 at a dumping site in that county.
Authorities are trying to determine if Grate is linked to other unsolved homicide cases in the area.
One involves Rebekah Leicy, whose body was found by a utility worker in March 2015 in Mifflin Township.
Here are the charges filed against Grate:
• Aggravated murder of Elizabeth A. Griffith (first-degree felony)
• Second charge of aggravated murder of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F1)
• Kidnapping of Elizabeth A, Griffith (F1)
• Gross abuse of the corpse of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F5)
• Burglary of the residence of Elizabeth A. Griffith (F3)
• Tampering with evidence (F3)
• Aggravated murder of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Second charge of aggravated murder of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Kidnapping of Stacey J. Hicks, aka: Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Second charge of kidnapping of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Rape of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Aggravated robbery of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F1)
• Gross abuse of the corpse of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F5)
• Unauthorized use of a vehicle of Stacey J. Hicks/Stanley (F5)
• Kidnapping of Jane Doe (F1)
• Rape of Jane Doe (F1)
• Second charge of rape of Jane Doe (F1)
• Third charge of rape of Jane Doe (F1)
• Robbery of Jane Doe (F3)
• Burglary (F3)
• Burglary (F3)
• Burglary (F3)
• Breaking and entering (F5)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Courtney McNaull, with The Ashland Source, contributed to this story.