The family of Stacey Stanley – one of three women whose remains were found Tuesday in Ohio after a desperate 911 placed by an allegedly abducted woman – tells PEOPLE that local authorities initially dismissed reports she was missing, suggesting instead she’d relapsed following six months of sobriety.
When relatives reported Stanley, 43, missing several days before the 911 call, they said police shrugged off suspicion she was in danger, saying she “probably went somewhere to get high with someone,” uncle Argil Stanley tells PEOPLE.
Outraged at the police inaction, Argil says, the Stanley family gathered together to look for Stacey on their own – coming as close as discovering the scene where her body was later found before asking, unsuccessfully, for police to get involved.
“We did all the ground work, and we found that house, and they still didn’t react,” Argil says. “They let Stacey’s past decide her future.”
Her family is now mourning her brutal beating death.
While Stacey was a heroin addict, she “was fighting for years to get sober,” Argil says.
He says Stacey hadn’t touched the drug in six months, was a devoted mom and was seemingly back on the right path, working daily and moving in with her sister for support.
“She had had run-ins with the police in the past, so when we reported her missing, they said they weren’t going to look for her because she probably went somewhere to get high with someone,” Argil says. “But she left her car behind with her phone and her wallet … no one does that.
“She didn’t deserve to have the police not looking for her.”
An Arrest, An Alleged Abduction and Three Dead Bodies
Police in Ashland, Ohio, received a 911 call on Tuesday from a woman alleging she had been abducted by a man she’d met 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.
After arresting Shawn Grate, who is homeless, detectives searched the remainder of the deserted residence and the surrounding area and found the dead bodies of three women. So far, police have only identified Stacey’s body. They believe their work isn’t over and that there could be additional victims.
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Police have charged Grate, 40, with murder in the deaths of Stanley and an unidentified woman, and he has been charged with one count of abduction.
Grate is being held without bail at the Ashland County Jail. He does not appear to have legal counsel but is due in court Friday, at which time he is expected to enter a plea to the charges against him.
A Frantic Search for Stacey: ‘We Begged Them’
“[Stacey] went missing last Thursday, and by Sunday everyone who loves her knew something was wrong,” Argil tells PEOPLE. “She has a big family. About 30 to 40 our her relatives went to Ashland to search for her and we found the house she had been held captive in.”
Argil says Stanley’s relatives were convinced the house held the secret to solving her mysterious disappearance, “but we were afraid to kick door in.”
“But,” he continues, “we found it, we found that house where she was at, and we went to the Ashland Police Department and told them, ‘We believe she is in this house,’ but they wouldn’t send a cop out there to look into it.”
“We searched that area for three days and found the house we thought she was in, and we were right,” Argil says. “A couple of days went by before they got that 911 call. Our biggest beef with this whole thing is the cops would not help.”
Ashland’s chief of police, David Marcelli, did not respond to PEOPLE’s multiple calls and emails seeking comment on the case.
A group of Stacey’s relatives attended a news conference Tuesday night detailing Grate’s arrest Tuesday, where they interrupted Marcelli with questions about why more wasn’t done to find her.
One of the loudest voices demanding answers belonged to Argil, who says the family is talking to attorneys about possible civil action against Ashland.
“It’s outrageous,” he tells PEOPLE. “It’s possible [Stacey] could have been saved – maybe, who knows? We’ll never know, no thanks to the cops.”
Argil says he’s a been staunch supporter of law enforcement, but he received no support from police when he needed it.
“Part of me feels like they didn’t like us doing their jobs for them, which really we’re not supposed to do, but since they weren’t going to look for her, we did,” Argil says. “I believe we came real close to saving her. We begged them to look into that house. I even asked one of the cops, ‘What would it hurt? Just take a look.’ No one helped us.”