ASHLAND COUNTY, OH (WOIO) - I never felt threatened by his presence, which is probably why the women were unsuspecting at times.
I drove to the Ashland County Jail on Oct. 7 to see if I could set up an interview for one of our investigators with Shawn Michael Grate. I was told that visitors are on a first-come, first-served basis and to arrive early because a line can develop. I arrived at 7 a.m. and stood outside the doors for an hour until a jail supervisor turned on the lights and let me in.
When Grate, 40, found out I was there, he wanted to hear what I had to say. He gets one visitor for 30 minutes twice a week. His mother showed up and Grate sent her away and had the sheriff officials tell her he was talking to the media today and would call her later.
So I was in. I was nervous and didn't know what to expect.
I was told I couldn't take any electronics or cell phones in with me and it was suggested to leave those items in the car.
I went back to the car and left my personal belongings. Armed with two pens, in case one failed me, a folder with all my notes and previous coverage, and a notepad with about 50 questions. I sat and waited in the lobby until that moment when I was told Grate was on his way down and I needed to head to the visitation room.
The door was unlocked and I entered what appeared to be a 5-by-5-foot concrete room with a chair, metal shelf/desk with a phone attached to the wall and a glass partition. On the other side was a mirror image of my room.
The moment of truth had arrived. I was nervous for obvious reasons -- I was about to interview a man who is suspected of killing five women and who hid it from the world for a decade, in at least one of the cases.
Grate was indicted at the end of September on a total of 23 counts in connection to the murders of Stacey Stanley and Elizabeth Griffin and the kidnapping and rape of an unnamed woman who managed to escape and call for help. He pleaded not guilty.
I could hear the cell door alarms going off and a man's voice. I heard a door slam and there he was, standing right in front of me with his hands cuffed and his feet shackled, wearing glasses.
"Oh my God, here we go," I thought to myself.
He smiled at me and picked up the phone. I, too, picked up the phone and said, "Good morning Mr. Grate," and thanked him for sitting down with me.
During our 30-minute interview, Grate was calm, cool and collected. He was well-spoken, charismatic and charming at times.
He spoke very casually about his crimes, admitting to killing five women and telling me how he did it. I was sitting there thinking to myself, "Oh my God, he is telling me everything."
Grate told me that his victims had life problems and were depressed. He wanted to show them that they do want to live, so he would choke them to near death until they saw the light and realize they wanted to live. When they didn't make that realization, the women died.
He admitted to "choking out" four of his five victims. The fifth victim was stabbed in the throat. Grate explained to me what happened to each of the women, how they met and why he killed them.
He said he was 50 percent remorseful.
I asked why he pleaded not guilty if he was admitting to everything. Grate blamed his attorney and said he admitted he was guilty and wanted to free himself of the burden.
Grate said he was tired of hiding bodies and looking at himself in the mirror every day and keeping it all inside. He even said he thought about turning himself in several times.
I thanked him for the interview after our half hour was up and he thanked me, as well.
I hung up the phone and walked out of the jail and got into my car and just sat there for a minute.
At no point did I feel threatened. I was a little creeped out that he kept gazing into my eyes and smiling. I'm sure that will be stamped into my mind for the rest of my life. I still had so many unanswered questions, luckily he said he wanted to speak with me again in the future.
I drove an hour back to our station in Cleveland going over and over in my mind everything we had just discussed. There were just so many thoughts running through my mind that it was hard to put pen to paper and hash it all out.
I truly feel bad for the women who came in contact with him. I never in a million years would have picked him out of crowd or thought for a second that he was a killer.
- Q&A from jail: Shawn Grate says his victims didn't want to live
- Shawn Grate says he's only half remorseful for deaths of 5 women
- Surveillance video shows accused serial killer Shawn Grate's life behind bars
- Suspected serial killer Shawn Grate pleads not guilty
- INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: 5 bodies found in 3 NE Ohio counties
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