Serial Killer, Shawn Grate and his House of Horrors

On Tuesday, September 16, 2016, a backhoe owned by Simonson Construction tore into the facade of 363 Covert Court in Ashland, Ohio.

A police barrier had been erected to keep out the modest crowd of locals who had gathered to watch the demolition. But the emotion from the gathering was palpable as the house began to fall.

This house had become a horrifying reminder of a series of murders that rocked the city, all of them committed by serial killer Shawn Grate. Over several years Grate would murder five women. Two of their bodies would be found within the Covert Court house upon his arrest. 

In this article, we’ll examine Shawn Grate, his crimes, his victims, and the brave woman whose desperate call for help would bring Grate to justice once and for all.

Shawn Grate in court. Jason Molyet, News Journal.

The Early Life of Shawn Grate

Shawn Grate was a lifelong resident of Ohio. His familiarity with his local community may have played a part in why he was able to kill without detection for so many years.

Before Shawn was a murderer, though, he lived a relatively peaceful childhood. It was marred with a few incidents that warped the young man for life. 

He was born in Marion, Ohio to mother Theresa McFarland and father Terry Grate on August 8, 1976. The first five years of his life were uneventful. But just two days before his sixth birthday, his parents would get divorced. 

The divorce didn’t start to affect Shawn until he was 11 when his mother left to live with a man in Kentucky. Shawn remained living with his father, and it was at this time that his siblings began to notice the violent thoughts that Shawn would harbor for his mother. 

Grate was a fantastic baseball player but broke his arm during high school and could never play again. He began to show signs of depression, sometimes laying on the couch for days in a sort of stupor. 

Shawn Grate was still attending River Valley High School when his tendency for violence began to show. He was arrested for attempting to choke his girlfriend in 1994, and later, after graduation, he was caught breaking into a home in Marion County to steal valuable jewelry. 

Later, he would marry Amber Nicole Bowman, but the couple divorced after just a year. They had a daughter together, but Bowman was able to get a restraining order against Grate citing domestic violence concerns. This was a haunting precursor to what Grate would do to other women in the near future. 

How Many Kids Does Shawn Grate Have?

Shawn Grate has three children. One with his ex-wife Amber Nicole Bowman. His other two children would be with two separate women whose identities have not been made public.

The Ashland Murders 

Grate would bounce between living situations and jobs for years, never settling. Only a little was heard about the man until late one night, on September 13, 2016, a phone call came into the Ashland police dispatch. 

The woman on the other line was speaking in a hurried whisper. She was saying that she was being held captive and that the man who abducted her was sleeping in the bed just inches away.

She did her best to describe where the house was but was almost caught when she knocked Grate’s taser off the bedside table, briefly waking him up. Luckily, Grate would simply roll over and go back to sleep…and the police were on their way. 

This woman, who is only referred to as Jane Doe to protect her identity, was saved by police after being held for a terrifying three days by Shawn Grate. During that time he sexually assaulted her, keeping her bound to the bed, until she was finally able to call for help.

Grate was arrested, and the yellow house on Covert Court was searched thoroughly. To the horror of officers, two other bodies were found–one in a closet, and the other in the basement, revealing that Grate wasn’t just a kidnapper, but a murderer. 

This is where police arrested Shawn Grate, rescued a woman he had abducted, and found two dead bodies in Ashland, Ohio.

Was Jane Doe Rescued From Shawn Grate?

Despite calling the police while lying right next to Grate, and even waking him up accidentally during the call, Jane Doe was successfully rescued by the police. Her bravery led to the discovery of Grate’s other victims and stopped his murder spree in its tracks. 

The Victims of Ohio Serial Killer Shawn Grate 

The two murder victims and kidnapping victim Jane Doe were horrifying enough. But once he was behind bars, Grate confessed to three other killings.

The victims of Shawn Grate were: 

  • Stacey Stanley- Stacey Stanley, also known as Stacey Hicks, was one of the two victims found in the Ashland house. She had been reported missing a week before police apprehended Grate.
  • Elizabeth Griffith- The second victim to be found in the Ashland house was Elizabeth Griffith. By the time her remains were found, she had been missing for a month.
  • Candice Cunningham- On the very same day he was arrested, Grate led police to the body of Candice Cunnigham behind a burned-out house in Richmond County. 
  • Rebekah Leicy- While in prison, Grate confessed to killing Rebekah Lacey. Her body was found in March 2015, but her death was initially thought to be from a drug overdose. Shawn Grate told police that he strangled Leicy because she had stolen money from his place of employment. 
  • Dana Lowrey- Shawn Grate also confessed to killing another woman whose name he didn’t remember exactly, but he told police that he thought her name was “Dana”. When her remains were found in 2006, they couldn’t be identified. In 2019, the DNA Doe Project was able to confirm that the remains were those of Dana Lowrey.

Where Is Shawn Grate Now?

After the trial, Shawn Grate pled guilty to all five murders and was sentenced to both life in prison and death. At this time, he is imprisoned at Chillicothe Correctional Institution but will be transferred to the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio, for his execution which is tentatively set for 2025. 

Shawn Grate’s mugshot. Ashland County Sheriff’s Office


“State v. Grate, 164 Ohio St.3d 9, 2020-Ohio-5584”

“Ohio Supreme Court upholds conviction, death sentence for serial killer Shawn Grate”- Julia Bingel

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