Authorities Identify Third Possible Victim of Suspected Ohio Serial Killer
Coroners used DNA to identify potential victim Candice Cunningham, who was never reported missing
Another possible victim of suspected Ohio serial killer Shawn Grate has been identified, nearly two months after her body was discovered following his September arrest, PEOPLE confirms.
So far Grate has been linked to five dead women, and he has been and charged with killing two — Elizabeth Griffin, 29, and Stacey Stanley, 43 — and kidnapping another.
While many questions remain, the Richland County Coroner’s Office in Ohio this week answered one more when it revealed the identity of a woman found burned near a home in Madison Township, Ohio: Candice Cunningham.
Coroners used DNA to make the identification, according to a statement.
Cunningham, who was 29, was never reported missing, but authorities allege she was killed by Grate.
Her body was recovered in mid-September, along with the bodies of Griffin and Stanley, and it is believed she was killed sometime last year.
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In a fourth case, Grate, 40, also allegedly confessed to murdering a woman in Richland County more than 10 years ago and dumping her body in a wooded area in Madison Township, according to investigators.
That woman’s skeleton was found in 2007. Her remains have not been identified. Grate allegedly told investigators he’d killed her because his mother was upset she did not get the magazines the woman was selling.
Investigators have released a sketch of her based on descriptions Grate provided, and they are asking anyone who purchased a book or magazine subscription in 2003 and 2004 to contact their local police department.
A fifth body was also recovered in September, but authorities have released few details about the victim.
Police also claim Grate’s ex-girlfriend told detectives he had previously referred to killing a woman, but she didn’t believe him. It is unclear whether such accusations have been linked to any of the five recovered bodies so far — or refer to an as-yet-undiscovered victim.
“He’s obviously a serial killer,” authorities previously said of Grate. They said, “It’s hard to believe there aren’t other bodies out there.”
In September, Grate was taken into custody in Ashland, Ohio, after police received a desperate 911 call from a woman he had allegedly abducted.
After arresting Grate, local police recovered the remains of Cunningham, Griffin and Stanley: The latter two were found in an abandoned home Grate had been squatting in; and hours later, police found Cunningham, who had been dumped not far from the deserted home.
The call to Ashland’s 911 was made by a woman who said she’d met Grate a month earlier. As her alleged captor slept, the caller was able to lead authorities to the abandoned house where she was allegedly being held against her will.
Grate remains in custody at the Ashland County Jail on $1 million bail. He has pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.
Grate’s attorneys were not immediately available for comment.