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. A decision on additional charges will come Thursday, the Ashland County prosecutor said.
The woman whose 911 call led to the grisly discoveries whispered to a dispatcher she was afraid of waking her captor.
“I’ve been abducted,” the woman said in the Tuesday call, begging, “Please hurry.”
Police said officers following up on the 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 at the home was that of Stacey Stanley, of Greenwich, who’d been reported missing from Huron County. Stanley’s sister had told the Mansfield News Journal she had been missing since Sept. 8 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 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 with a teddy bear and a cross with Stanley’s name and the message: “You are loved by many.”
“She’d give anybody anything,” her son Kurtis Stanley said Wednesday. “She’s a very kind-hearted woman.”
Kurtis Stanley said his mother had health problems and was retired.
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.
Bruce Wilkinson, pastor and director of Pump House Ministries, which owns the home and one next to it, said they had been vacant since March and were being renovated. He said they were padlocked and checked weekly.
The coroner hadn’t determined Stacey Stanley’s cause of death or identified the second body in the home, police said.
Grate pointed investigators to a third person’s remains at a property near Mansfield in neighboring Richland County, police said. He 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.
Grate, who’s homeless, has a long criminal record and served time in prison on a burglary charge beginning in 1997, records show. He couldn’t be reached for comment while in custody Wednesday. It was unclear whether he had an attorney.
Authorities checked the Mansfield-area site Tuesday and found decomposed remains of a woman 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.
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 blaze.
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.
Ashland police said they had 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.
The woman said in the 911 call she had been tied up but partly freed herself in a bedroom to make the call while her captor was asleep in the room.
The woman said the man had a stun gun and she was afraid if she woke him he would catch her. She said she’d known him about a month and a half.
Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins and Kantele Franko in Columbus and AP researcher Monika Mathur in New York contributed to this report.