In a whispered phone call, an Ohio woman told a police dispatcher she was being held against her will and feared for her life.
“I’ve been abducted,” the distraught woman said in the call. “Please hurry.”
The woman, who has not been identified, said her captor had a stun gun. She was afraid he’d wake up if she tried to escape.
The call led police to a supposedly vacant home in Ashland, Ohio, on Tuesday. There, police say, 40-year-old Shawn M. Grate, a homeless ex-convict, had fallen asleep in a bedroom after tying the woman up. She somehow freed herself enough from her restraints to call 911.
Responding officers led the woman to safety before waking Grate and taking him into custody without incident.
Police said they found the remains of two women when they searched the property. They have identified one of the bodies as belonging to 43-year-old Stacey Stanley, who disappeared from a gas station in nearby Huron County on Sept. 8.
The coroner has not determined how Stanley died and the second body has not yet been identified, Ashland police said in a statement.
An undated photo of Stacey Stanley that was shared on her Facebook page.
Grate later led police to a burned-out house in Richland County, where investigators found the remains of a third woman. Grate allegedly confessed to killing that unidentified woman.
Ashland County prosecuting attorney Christopher Tunnell filed a felony complaint against Grate on Thursday, charging him with two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office declined to comment on the case to The Huffington Post, citing the ongoing multijurisdictional investigation.
The charges against Grate do not mention how long the unidentified kidnapping victim was allegedly held captive. A press release from Tunnell’s office says she was held “against her will for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity with her between the dates of September 11 and 13.”
Authorities in Richland County have not yet filed charges against Grate. It’s unclear whether he has an attorney.
Grate has a lengthy criminal record that includes prior arrests for abduction, burglary, domestic violence and drug abuse, The Associated Press reports.
His ex-wife, Amber Nicole Bowman, issued a statement through her attorney after his arrest. Bowman, who has a daughter with Grate, said she has been estranged from him for four years.
“He is not a part of our lives,” Bowman said. “My prayers are with the families who lost their loved ones to these horrific acts. For the sake of my innocent child, I ask that the press respect our privacy at this time.”
Records obtained by The Richland Source show Grate and Bowman were married in 2011 and divorced the following year. After the divorce, Grate was accused of making threatening phone calls to Bowman, which allegedly prompted an order of protection to be filed against him.
Grate also reportedly has a son who was born in 1999.
Ashland Police Chief David Marcelli declined to comment on whether authorities are attempting to tie Grate to other unsolved cases.
The Norwalk Reflector spoke with several women in Ashland who shared stories about bizarre encounters they had reportedly had with Grate.
One of the women, a 17-year-old mother of a 2-year-old, said Grate approached her on Sunday and invited her into the vacant house where he was staying. She said she declined the invitation ― a decision she now credits with saving her life.
“If I would have went in there with him, [my son and I] would be dead,” she told the publication. “I’m just lucky.”
Brittany Lutz, a 20-year-old mom who lives not far from where Grate was staying, shared a similar story. She said Grate recently approached her while she was sitting on a bench in the neighborhood.
“He came up to me and he was asking me if I did drugs and this and that and, ‘Hey, can we hang out?’ ‘Can I go buy you a beer?’ And I said, ‘No.’ I thought to myself, ‘I’ve got a 2-year-old to worry about, not some dude that’s randomly coming up to me and being weird,’” Lutz told The Norwalk Reflector.
She reflected on that decision earlier this week when she learned of Grate’s arrest.
“I’m just a little freaked out because he could have just as easily snatched me up,” she said.
Authorities are still in the early stages of reviewing evidence gathered by police, according to the Ashland County Prosecutors Office, and additional charges could be forthcoming.
For now, many questions remain unanswered.
“I’d like to know the reason he took my mom’s life,” Stacey Stanley’s son, Kurtis Stanley, told “Good Morning America.” “He’s not God. He didn’t deserve to take my mom’s life.”
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