EXPERT: Shawn Grate letters to News 5 could be used as evidence in murder case

Posted at 11:23 PM, Oct 06, 2016

A legal expert who reviewed the letters from alleged serial killer Shawn Grates to News 5’s Megan Hickey said the contents should be reviewed by the investigators for consideration as evidence in the suspect’s court case. 

Grate sent two letters in response to Hickey’s request for an on-camera interview. In the first letter, he referenced “all five victims” that he is connected to, not just the two women that he’s currently charged with murdering. 

In the second letter, Grate gives a motive for why he did it, blaming “government assistance” for taking “the minds” of his victims. 

“The were already dead, just their bodies were flopping wherever it can flop but their minds were already dead!” Grate wrote. “The state took their minds. Once they started receiving their monthly checks.”

“The reasons he’s giving are not reasons that a rational person would give for explaining this kind of conduct,” explained Jonathan Witmer-Rich, an associate professor at the Cleveland-Marshall School of Law, who reviewed the letters for News 5. 

Witmer-Rich said it’s likely that investigators have already received most if not all of this information from Grate, but it’s a type of confession that’s different than one collected by investigators. 

“A letter like this is gonna be admissible because it’s just from him to a reporter, it’s a voluntary statement,” he explained. “It’s not coerced by law enforcement, the police weren’t involved, so you I think would want to look at this as a source of information that would even be independent of the law enforcement investigation and potentially be useful for that reason.”

News 5 reached out to the Ashland County Prosecutor’s Office upon receiving the letters and asked to share the letters with the Prosecutor. Support Staff answering the phones declined a request to speak with the Prosecutor, even off camera and said the office did not care about the letters or what they said. 

“Do what you want with the letters,” a member of the support staff said over the phone. 

In an email later that day, Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mark Weaver told News 5 that support staff is not authorized to speak to the press. 

“If you have evidence or letter from Shawn Grate that you want to provide to law enforcement, please submit copies to our office, and we will review them for potential use in prosecution,” an email said. 

Wither-Rich believes that reviewing the letters should not just be an option. 

“I think they should make clear to the support staff that there’s a difference between a reporter who wants to talk to a prosecutor and someone who has received letters from the accused and that’s a different category,” he said. “That kind of thing the prosecutor definitely should at least look at.”