Norwalk Reflector: Shawn Grate murder trial 'heart wrenching' for local victim's family

Shawn Grate murder trial 'heart wrenching' for local victim's family

Zoe Greszler • Apr 27, 2018 at 2:41 AM

ASHLAND — For Stacey Stanley’s (Hicks) family, the last four days have been like re-opening an old wound that just started to heal.

Greenwich resident Stanley was found dead Sept. 13, 2016 at an Ashland house where another woman had called 9-1-1, reported being abducted, beaten and raped repeatedly by Shawn Grate.

Stanley reportedly had been robbed, kidnapped, raped and killed and then her corpse was grossly abused. She was found along with the body of another victim, Elizabeth Griffith. 

Grate, now 40, of Ashland, is the suspect in the slaying of five women, but is currently on trial for his alleged role in two murder cases — Stanley and Griffith. He faces 23 charges all together in the trial that’s under way.

Thursday marked the fourth day of the jury trial, which has reported details of the bodies found and the horrific acts done to the victims. 

On the first day of trial, Stanley’s sister Jeana Stanley posted on Facebook her initial response to the details.

“Just heard opening arguments from prosecution,” she wrote. “(It) was heart wrenching. Very emotional and hard day. I miss my sister.”

Just two days prior to that, Jeana and her family celebrated Stacey’s birthday, posting a photo of a special cake they had made up with the words “ Happy Heavenly Birthday, Stacey” written on it.

Jeana declined an interview with the Reflector, saying she wanted to wait until the trial was complete before speaking with the reporter.

The trial has been equally difficult for Stacey’s son, Kory, who was instrumental in searching for his mother when she went missing.  

“I’ve been dreading this day for so long,” he wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “Seeing the (expletive) who took my mom’s life and the other women (sic). I’m testifying in court today, it’s gonna be a rough day for me. But I know my mom would do it for me. Love you mom. Miss you dearly. #STANLEYSTRONG”

According to Channel 19 News’ running blog of the trial, a state crime lab agent testified Tuesday, saying they found piles of clothes and stuffed animals in front of a door, which caught the team’s attention because it had a “red towel stuffed in the crack (and the) door appears framed with black duct tape.” When they opened the closet door, they found maggots and an “odor of decomposition.”

"It was deplorable,” the agent said, according to Channel 19. But they would find worse.

Finding Stacey’s body

Inside the closet, agents “first saw a foot and a leg” that was already beginning to decompose, the TV station reported. The rest of the body, which was found face down, had ligatures tied around the body and all extremities to restrain her movement. Channel 19 said the agent testified “they may have been connected at some point.” The body was later identified as Elizabeth Griffith. 

The agents next found what prosecutors called a "signature sex object” — a pipe covered with clothing and wrapped in a condom, Channel 19 reported.

According to the report, in the basement, the team searched through piles of trash and debris. It was in one of those trash piles that they found what would later be identified as Stacey Stanley’s body, “lying on the concrete floor with a blanket on top.”

She was found unclothed from the waist down and had “a piece of cloth” tied around her neck, the agent told the court. He said Stanley’s body had started to decay, but was not “as advanced” as the body found in the upstairs closet.

The agent said they found another "signature sexual devices" in the pile of trash on Stanley’s body, according to Channel 19’s report.

He told the court they found numerous items during the search, including cell phones, stun guns, wallets, a pair of brass knuckles as well as a debit card with Stanley’s name on it and a set of Mitsubishi car keys. Stanley drove a Mitsubishi to Ashland the day she went missing and prosecutors said Grate moved her car after killing her. The vehicle was found a few blocks from the vacant house where Grate was apparently living and hiding the bodies.

Channel 19 reported Cory Stanley took the stand at 4:17 p.m. Tuesday, when he described his mother as “a wonderful woman who loved her family.” Cory told the court he had plans with his mother to have dinner the evening she went missing.

The living victim’s story

The woman who managed to call for help survived her encounter with Grate and was rescued by police after a tense and emotional 9-1-1 call, during which Grate briefly woke up.

After being rescued, the woman was taken to University Hospital-Samaritan Medical Center. The nurse who treated the victim took the stand to tell the court how “terrified” the woman was, "rocking back and forth" when she first arrived at the emergency room, according to Channel 19.

The nurse reported finding extensive injuries on the woman, including some to her head, consistent with being punched. Other bruises and scratches were found on her face, knees and ankles, some of which were believed to be from being tied up. There was also evidence of sexual assault. 

Channel 19 reported the nurse said the woman told her she was choked, bit, hit and raped multiple times.  

At one point, the news station’s blog said the nurse “breaks down in tears describing the victim's experience,” adding the victim said she gagged during the horrific acts that were forced upon her and that Grate told her it was to “make her better” at it.

The nurse told the court the woman said Grate gave her muscle relaxers and that she vomited several times while being raped.

When the victim took the stand, Channel 19 reported she said she had known Grate prior to the alleged attack and met with him a couple times each week, taking walks with him, having lunch and even going to his house on one or two occasions. She told the court though that she made it clear to Grate that she only wanted to be friends. Channel 19 said she testified he knew her views that pre-martial sex is a "no-no.”

The night she was kidnapped, the woman said she willingly went into Grate’s home because he said he had a bag of clothes for her and she was going to give him an extra Bible, Channel 19 reported.

She told the court she sat down on the bed and opened the Bible and tried to read and discuss a few passages with him, the news station reported. She said Grate didn’t seem interested and ripped the Bible out of her hands before he suddenly began to punch and kick her.

The news station reported she said she attempted to fight back, but said, "Everything I did, he just did it so much harder," and stopped struggling after Grate began choking her. She said she was then was sexually assaulted "in every way imaginable.”

She told the court she was not allowed to leave the house.

"I couldn't even move on my own without him jumping into reaction," she said, according to Channel 19.

She was rescued the next day. 

A conviction could lead to the death penalty

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.

If found guilty following the current tri, he could face the death penalty. 

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)

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