Cops: Kidnap report leads to arrest, murder confession, discovery of three bodies

Shawn Grate

Ashland, Ohio Police Department

ASHLAND, Ohio — A woman’s report that she was being held captive in a home led to the arrest of a kidnapping suspect, a murder confession and the discovery of the remains of three other people, authorities said.

Suspect Shawn Grate remained jailed Wednesday on an abduction charge as authorities identified one of the bodies and continued working to identify the other remains and collect evidence.

Ashland police said officers following up on the captive woman’s report Tuesday found her and Grate at a home that was supposed to be unoccupied. Investigators also found the remains of two people at the home, Chief David Marcelli said.

Police confirmed Wednesday that one of the bodies was that of Stacey Stanley, who’d been reported missing from Huron County. Stanley’s sister had told the Mansfield News Journal that the 43-year-old had been missing since Thursday and was last seen at an Ashland gas station when she got a flat tire.

That’s several blocks from where she was found, at a rundown, cream-colored home that faces a coin-operated laundromat. The house was cordoned off Wednesday with yellow police tape, and two bouquets of sunflowers were placed in front, along with a teddy bear and a cross with Stanley’s name and the message: “You are loved by many.”

Barbara Balsizer, who cleans and closes the laundromat, said she hadn’t seen lights on at the house or noticed anything suspicious.

“If I had seen anything out of the ordinary, I would’ve called the police,” Balsizer said.

The coroner hasn’t determined Stanley’s cause of death or identified the second body, Ashland police said in a statement.

Grate, 40, also pointed investigators to a third person’s remains at a property near Mansfield in neighboring Richland County, police said.

Grate confessed that he’d killed a woman in June at a house that was destroyed by fire that month, Richland County Prosecutor Bambi Couch Page told the Mansfield News Journal.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Grate, who is homeless, has an attorney.

Authorities checked the Mansfield-area site Tuesday and found decomposed remains down a ravine in a wooded area behind the house. The remains weren’t immediately identified, but authorities had a lead on the woman’s identity, Couch Page said.

The Ohio fire marshal’s investigators returned Wednesday to check the Mansfield-area property, which remains under investigation because no cause has been determined for the June blaze, spokeswoman Lindsey Burnworth said.

Agents from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation were called to both scenes to help collect evidence Tuesday, and that work continued at the Richland County scene Wednesday, spokeswoman Jill Del Greco said. She said the agency was simply collecting evidence and hadn’t been asked to investigate.

Ashland police said they have no previous reports involving Grate.

Police haven’t provided an update on the condition of the woman who reported being held captive. They said she hadn’t been listed as missing at the time they were contacted.