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Testimony in Shawn Grate murder trial reveals increasingly macabre details

Posted at 5:56 PM, May 01, 2018
and last updated 2019-06-04 14:12:24-04

On the seventh day of Shawn Grate's murder trial, the jury heard in explicit detail testimony regarding how Liz Griffith and Stacey Hicks were brutally strangled to death.

Dr. Todd Barr, a Cuyahoga County deputy medical examiner, testified that Griffith's body was found in an advanced state of decomposition when it was discovered by police on Sept. 13, 2016. Her body was located in an upstairs closet, behind a door that had been duct-taped shut with a "deplorable smell" emanating from it.

Barr testified that Griffith's body was in such bad shape that officials had to use dental records to identify her. Griffith had been found naked and tied up inside the bottom of the closet.

"She was wrapped in various garments that had her restrained with her arms behind her back and her legs behind her back," Barr said. "Her hands were secured behind her back with a red and white striped shirt. Then, she also had a piece of black fabric that was wrapped around her right ankle that extended up under this red and white striped shirt, up around her neck and back down."

According to authorities, both Griffith and Hicks had been strangled to death. When Grate was arrested he confessed to the deaths on tape. Last week, the jury heard those tapes firsthand.

Barr conducted the autopsies of Griffith and Hicks. During Tuesday's testimony, Barr acknowledged he had watched a police video of Grate demonstrating a chokehold he said he used on Griffith. Barr testified that a similar chokehold is what killed Griffith.

"Was what you saw consistent with your findings in this case?" the prosecutor asked Barr.

"Yes," Barr said.

"Just a sleeper hold, by grabbing the arm around someone's neck and cutting off the blood flow to the brain was the cause of death in this case," the prosecutor asked.

"Yes," Barr said. 

According to Barr, it would have taken three to five minutes for Griffith to die from strangulation.

Authorities said Hicks had also been strangled. Her body was found in the basement with a knit scarf tied around her neck. But instead of having been dumped in a closet, her corpse was found hidden under trash and debris on the basement's floor.


Grate murder trial Day 6: Clues

Grate murder trial Day 5: The confession

Grate murder trial Day 4: Held captive

Grate murder trial Day 3: A disappearance

Grate murder trial Day 2: Grim details revealed

Grate murder trial Day 1: Opening statements