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Family of Grate murder victim: 'The death penalty is the easy way out'

Posted: 6:28 PM, May 08, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-08 22:28:04Z

The family of Stacey Stanley Hicks remembered her as a loving mother and a devoted grandmother one day after her killer, Shawn Grate, was found guilty by an Ashland County jury.

From their home in Norwalk, Stacey's son, Kurtis, and his wife, Kristi, shared photographs and videos of the woman they described as caring and giving. They said Stacey loved to cook, entertain family and spend hours on her hair.

One of the videos shows Stacey dancing with her granddaughter, Trinity Lazzara. It was one of the many special moments shared in their close relationship.

"She helped others and she made people happy and she was really nice to everybody," the girl told News 5 while fighting through tears.

To keep her memory alive, Kurtis has tattoos of an angel and the word "Mother" on his arm.

"Whatever you did for her, she'd always try to repay you back, double, if not more," he said.

Stacey's nephew Mitchell Adams wears a wristband with his aunt's name on it.

"We do cherish those moments that we had with her," Adams said. "She may be gone now, but in all reality, we're a lot stronger and we're gonna be there for one another no matter what."

The family also made purple T-shirts, Stacey's favorite color, and plans to wear them to court when Grate is sentenced.

"I don't think it's really ever gonna be justice, but a small, small win," said Kristi Stanley, Stacey's daughter-in-law.

In September 2016, Stacey got a flat tire and pulled into an Ashland BP gas station. Stacey had a chance encounter with a stranger, Grate, who offered to change the tire.

In exchange for the help, Stacey gave Grate a ride to a house on Covert Court where he had been squatting for months.

But when Stacey went inside, Grate raped and strangled her and then dumped her body under some trash in the basement.

Another woman, Liz Griffith, had been murdered in the same house in August. Her tied-up and naked body was left in an upstairs closet.

"When I look at him, I see nothing but evil. I see nothing for him. I can see through him," said Kurtis Stanley.

On Monday, a jury found Grate guilty on eight counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping and aggravated robbery.

Last week, he pleaded guilty to 15 other counts in the indictment.

The penalty phase of the trial is scheduled to start May 18. The jury could recommend a death sentence or life in prison with or without parole.

Kurtis Stanley would prefer Grate be locked up for the rest of his life with no chance to get out.

"The death penalty, I feel, is the too easy way out," he said.

When asked what he would say to Grate, Adams said he would not speak or look at him.

"I don't think he deserves human contact. He did an inhumane thing and I can't ever forgive that," Kurtis Stanley said.

Stacey's family believes she is still giving even though she's gone. Kurtis said his mom would be proud that the family has grown closer since the tragedy.

"When she passed it hurt me, but at the same time it made me a better man. It made me think about life more," he said.