MARION, Ohio - Convicted killer Shawn Grate pleaded guilty to the murder of 23-year-old Dana Lowrey in Marion County Common Pleas Court on Wednesday.
Grate entered guilty pleas to charges of aggravated murder, kidnapping, abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence.
Back in May 2006, Lowrey was in Marion County selling magazines. Sheriff Tim Bailey said she sold magazines to Grate’s mother but never supplied them. That angered Grate enough that he lured her into his car, took her back to his house and choked her to the point of unconsciousness. Then, prosecutors say he dragged her down to his basement.
“He then went upstairs, grabbed a knife from the kitchen and went back downstairs and stabbed her in the neck,” Marion County Prosecutor Ray Grogan said in court. “She started to bleed. He positioned her body so that the blood could flow near to where the sump pump was in the basement of that residence.”
Prosecutors say Grate then wrapped Lowrey’s body in sheets and then dumped her off Victory Road. He then drove back to the house to set the sheets and knife on fire before returning to the scene to set Lowrey’s body on fire.
Lowrey’s remains were not discovered until March 10, 2007. But she could not be identified at the time. In fact, it took years of detective work and DNA evidence, combined with Grate’s confession, to finally make a positive ID.
“For what it’s worth, I wish I would have did this a long time ago,” Grate said in court while admitting his crime. “I’m just thankful for today, to get this done, ‘cause this is justice for everyone, Dana’s loved ones.”
Grate’s attorney, Terry Hitchman, echoed that sentiment, saying his client has been wanting to resolve this issue since he was first arrested.
“When it was revealed that we now know who she is, and we have a name and a photograph, I visibly saw Shawn just kind of say, thank you, and his shoulders went down, and he was like, relieved that, here, we’re coming to an end.”
Grogan said he had spoken with Lowrey’s loved ones, who were supportive of his recommended sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus six years.
But Judge Warren T. Edwards went with the maximum sentence of life without the possibility of parole, plus 16 years.
“I spent 19 years as a prosecutor, and it well could have been indicted as a death penalty case, and, had it been, you’re looking at a judge that believes in the death penalty, and in these facts, would not have hesitated to give it to you,” the judge said.
In fact, Grate is already on death row, convicted of killing Elizabeth Griffith and Stacey Stanley in Ashland County. He later was sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole, in the deaths of Rebekah Leicy and Candace Cunningham in Richland County.
“I think it’s important that the sentence was consecutive,” Grogan said. “He may very well die before he serves a day of this court’s sentence. But, at the end of the day, I’ll know, the sheriff will know, the family will know, that Dana received her own justice.”
Marion County Sheriff Tim Bailey was in the courtroom for the hearing and to witness Grate’s conviction and sentencing. He said this day was a long time coming for his department.
“I think maybe there was some truth to what he said because he was helpful, he sat down with us, he shared as much information as he could recall and tried to help us solve it, so there probably was some remorse in this,” the sheriff said.
That was something Grate did express in his comments in court.
“Every day, I’ll think about that day with Dana, ‘til the day I die,” Grate said. “It’s one of them things that come with doing such a horrible thing. I lived with bitterness and everything, trying to run from myself. Took me a lot of different routes, and now I gotta face them, every day. Even though justice is done, I’m still gonna face their families and just all my peers I let down, everyone. For what it’s worth, I apologize to everyone for this, for what I done, the shame, a human being. But now I am where I am, where I need to be.”