Oct. 13, 2021

Vicky Dana Doe and the Victims of Shawn Grate Part 1

Vicky Dana Doe and the Victims of Shawn Grate Part 1

Christina and Shawn

Amber and Shawn

 

Marion, Oh is the county seat of Marion County, which, if you drop a pin the center of Ohio, is north and west. Population in 2010 just just under 36k. Notable people… aside from this asshole, I didn’t recognize anyone I think most of us would know. So let’s go...

Shawn Grate was born to Teresa McFarland and Terry Grate on 8/8/1976 in Marion Ohio. They divorce in 1982 and Teresa retains custody of Shawna and his older brother Ronald. Just shy of his 18th birthday, his mother relinquishes custody of Shawn to his father, Terry in 1994. Dad and mom had continued to live in the same area in or near Marion all this time, so it wasn’t like Shawn had to switch schools or anything. Why? Based on his criminal record, which begins before he graduates in 1995, I’m guessing mom couldn’t handle his behavior. Because he’s a woman-hating, girlfriend beating monster who gets his first charges just a few months into his senior year of high school. Seems his pregnant girlfriend didn’t like getting the shit kicked out of her anymore and decides to break up with him. Shawn wasn’t too pleased with this turn of events and assaulted her to the point where she decided to get police involved and make a formal complaint. His first child, hers, is born in January of 1996. 

Later on in the fall of 1996, Grate hooks up with a minor who, name unknown, and the two of them commit a felony burglary in town. He is picked up, convicted and spends about a year and half of a four year sentence in Marion County jail. By this time it’s the fall of 1997 and he’s living close to home, in Marion. By the end of the next year, he has found himself an under-age girlfriend. What does Matthew McConaughey say?  “I get older, they stay the same age.” Unfortunately, in Grates case, he also fathers their children. This girlfriend is in her first semester of pregnancy - yes, his child. After an assault, including strangulation, in February 1999, she called police. Seems she also no longer wanted to be with him, and told him so. He spent a month in jail for it, and then broke into her house, harassing her and threatening her. Prompted an official order of protection, requested by her family, but when the baby was born, she felt bad that he wasn’t able to see the baby, so she asked the court to lift the ban, which the judge did. When the baby is just a month old, Grate assaulted both this ex-girlfriend and her sister with a kitchen knife. She and he are cut up in the process, but luckily for her, they weren’t severe. I believe the worst of it for her was a deep cut on one of her thumbs. Now this is something I don’t get: Grate will be charged for this, and convicted of felony assault, but the judge decides to put him on probation, and instead revokes his early release for the burglary conviction, and make him complete the four year term.  Why? I guess we have two reasons to consider here. First: Getting an early release from a prison sentence is going to come with probation or parole in some form or another. So getting charged with a domestic violence offense (or, you know… let’s called it what it is: attempted murder) is going to get you in trouble not just for the offense itself, but because you offended while you were already on parole. He was supposed to be on his best behavior at this time. But instead, he’s going to visit his baby-mama and ends up attacking her and her sister with a kitchen knife. Clearly, parole needs to be revoked, clearly we need his ass off the street again.

But what about the charges, conviction and sentencing for the actual attack? Why did would he only get probation for that? I don’t know. Do you any idea? Is it one of those things where the judge can’t sentence him to a term any longer than the burglary term is going to get him… so the judge doesn't want him stewing in jail, thinking, “She put me here… I’m going to get back at her when I get out?” Because, this is something we’re going to see later. POS Grate holds a grudge.

Moving on, Grate gets out of prison in January 2003, goes back in November that same year, for another violation - see? Most of these assholes don’t stop - and then gets out again, this time for a long while, in May 2004. He's released on parole, but parole is going to last until the summer of 2006.

During this time, he never held any actual steady employment. He was a woodworker in some capacity. He liked to dink around in the shed or garage or make signs for freelance. This wasn’t even going to be a consistent income for him though… The closest we get to work - the kind that will get you a W-2 - is a stint as a stock boy at a local grocery store. Instead, he would bebop around town, schmooze his way in people’s lives, and get them to give him handyman jobs. I’ve found no businesses he was associated with aside from the supermarket, no trades, no hourly work, no employment history… how did he pay for expenses? Was Dad giving him living expenses too? Check this out, there was this apartment complex in Mansfield, and the landlord was interviewed and told the paper that this POS was known to smooth talk the ladies. And he would actively pursue one female tenant, claim his love, suggest they move in together - into her place of course. If he was rejected, he’d just move on to another woman in the same complex! What a goddamn deadbeat.

Christina Hildreth was recently divorced and had, I believe it was two, children. She had split from her husband and was looking for a new start, and she and kids decided to move closer to brother and sister-in-law, in or around Marion. They introduce her to their friend, Shawn Grate, just a few days after she gets to town. This is in April 2005. And Christina is going to be his first and only really long-term girlfriend. She tells us in the Evil Lives Here episode that he’s handsome, he’s charming, he’s attentive, he’s the best. And pretty soon, she’s really smitten with him.

There are a few things about her boyfriend though that she hadn’t experienced in prior relationships. Months go by, and Christina started to realize how much she didn’t know about him. She says that they talked a lot, they’d talk for hours… but looking back, “we didn’t talk about anything important.” Whenever she asked about his past, he didn’t want to talk about it. He said he had bad relationships with his family, he wasn’t close to either of his parents, and he didn’t see them that often, so why bother introducing her to them?  So Christina never met his family. 

One day, though, Grate's mom shows up to Christina’s house and wants to talk to her and about her son. Tells her he has issues, and “needed help” when he was teenager. So question: was mom talking about the high school girlfriend he abused? Or was there something else - something that wasn’t documented by the court? Something between mother and son, or son and something totally outside the house? We don’t know. But we know mom showed up for one purpose - to warn her son’s girlfriend that he’s not all he’s cracked up to be. And there’s a very dark side to him. Unfortunately, Christina decides not to heed Teresa's warning, and stays with Grate. 

It’s at this time in his life that Grate is living in his father’s house. He tells Christina that his dad is looking to sell, but it needs fixing up, so dad is allowing him to stay there rent-free, but he’s the guy that is going to do the work. It's about a year after he and Christina get together, and she comes over to see him, and he’s painting the wall of the kitchen. And she says, “hey, why are you painting the kitchen again? You just did this room last week.” And he tells her that dad came by, didn’t like the paint we put up, and told him to change the color. And then he asks her, since your here, do mind helping? I need to clear this place up. The cabinet doors, the floors, the grout in between the tiles. The corners of the walls … Yeah. He’s acting weird, but he’s her boyfriend, she loves him, and just because he’s in a bad mood, that doesn't mean he doesn’t deserve some help with housework, right? 

Christina and Shawn are working in the kitchen, and when she gets to the grout, she runs into some trouble. First of all, the tile floor has these thick dark reddish brownish stains splattered here and there, and now she can’t get some of these stains out of the grout between the tiles. And it’s weird. Like, was he making a red velvet cake… too much food coloring? What? It’s very weird and she doesn’t know what it was. She’s using some real elbow grease to clean it up, but it’s just not coming out. So Christina asks him, “what is this stuff?”  And he tells her not to worry about, just clean it. All the while, Grate is brooding, intense. He’s quiet, he’s focused, he’s not interested in chit chat.

Can we just stop here for a second? Because clearly, we are talking about human blood. Something horrific happened in this kitchen recently. We don’t know what, but Grate does. And he knows she has no idea, but since you’re here, can you help me clean up??? She has no clue what he is actually having her do - clean a goddamn crime scene - and still this POS becomes annoyed she couldn’t get a particular blood spot out of the grout.  Balls.

This is the aftermath of the murder of Vicky Dana Doe. 

So the cleaning finishes up, and they move on. And Christina’s just thinking her boyfriend can be moody sometimes. Months go by, and he calls her up one day, telling her he left a present for her on the dining room table. Turns out it’s an engagement ring. Aww, he wants to marry her! But… They’re sitting there on the phone, who knows where he is, his is not away on business, he is not serving in the military overseas… he is just somewhere in town, not in front of her, and proposing to her. OK. But it’s really only in theory. POS Grate, boyfriend of the year, tells Christina that they likely will never actually get married. “I’m sorry what? Ok, fuck you too, dick. Is this a promise ring?” Because he loves her... and wants her to wear his ring; it’s his mother’s and she gave it to him and he wants Christina to have it.

So she accepts it, promises to be his girl, I guess, and soon enough realizes it’s too big for her. But they can get it sized, so it’s all good. In the coming months, Christina worries over this ring though. Because she had met Shawn’s mother - she was a small lady. Her finger would also be too small for this ring. And mom had told her to stay clear of her son, for her own sake. Why would mom offer her engagement ring to him… why would she want to help a girlfriend get closer to her son, who “needed help” and got into trouble when he was younger? And she starts thinking, this is definitely not what he is telling me it is. 

Finally, after wearing his ring for six months, Christina confronts Grate. She tells him, “Listen, this is not from your mother, where did you get it?” And he argues with her and tries to continue the lie, but she holds tight to her guns, and he finally admits to her he got it in a burglary he committed when he was younger. At this point, she’s pissed he gave her a stolen ring, and she stops wearing it.

And he did tell the truth… it was stolen.. This ring is a trophy from the murder of Vicky Dana Doe. 

Time passes, the relationship continues, and Christina and Grate decide to move in together. He has his moments, he can be standoffish, he can be private and shake off questions about his past. But overall, he treats her well. He treats her kids well, they like him a lot. And she’s happy with him. 2006 turns into 2007. And one day, Christina starts cooking a meal, and she can’t find any knives in the kitchen… the kitchen knives are gone. Suspicious much? In a normal world, in a normal house, how do you go to filet chicken breasts for dinner and then realize all your knives have disappeared?  

And ok, I don't want to give the impression here, at all, that I think missing butcher block knives are a reason to break up with someone. But Grates' reaction to her asking about it is. His eyebrows furrow, he tells her he doesn't know, accuses her of calling him a liar, and then shoves her so hard up against the couch, she tumbles over the couch and lands on the floor. Once she hit the floor, of course POS Grate starts apologizing. He’s so sorry, he doesn’t know his own, strength… yadda yadda yadda. Christina gets herself up, the argument fizzles, she convinces herself it was a complete accident… and they move on.

Ok Dear Listener, what do we think is up with the missing knives? Of course one of these knives was the weapon used to kill Vicky Dana Doe. I have not seen his confession documents, but circumstantial evidence is good enough for me here.

Over the next few years… Grate becomes increasingly more morose. He’s in a bad mood more often than he’s not, he’s getting paranoid, tells her he doesn’t like going out into the world anymore… like, no more socializing.  People couldn’t come by anymore. He tells Christina her own family can’t come visit anymore. It’s just him, her and the kids. And he doesn’t even want her hanging out with friends now. If she hangs out with friends after work, she hears it from him when she gets home that night. And this is classic abusive behavior. 

Eventually, Grate took to looking out the windows more than is reasonable. And Grate now starts to think whoever “they” are is stalking him outside his window while he sleeps. He now randomly wakes up in the middle of the night, rustling Christina awake. Christina tells him it’s just the tree branches in the wind, hello? We are on the second floor, the shadows outside are goddamn leaves - but he doesn’t believe her, so she has to ride these waves with him, no matter how tired she is.

I’m going to venture to say this is the guilty conscience that came with the murder of Vicky Dana Doe. 

And she is tired. Christina, I don’t know how you lived through this. You no longer have friends, the only way you’re allowed out of the house is to go to work or conduct essential business, like getting groceries. Shawn gets pissed if you take the curtains down to clean them, you can’t rearrange the décor around the house without getting him offended. He has started hitting you regularly, but just enough so the kids don’t catch on. And now he won’t let you sleep because he thinks someone is about to break into the house and attack him. You have become a prisoner in your own house, and how are you going to get out?

But what about the kids? She tells us she thought they never really understood the gravity of the situation with Grate. He and the kids had gotten along really well for the majority of the relationship so far. They weren’t babies, they were school age, anywhere from 6-13 from my impression, during the time Grate was in their lives. And then one day, he didn’t want them around any more. So he called up Christina’s sister and asked if she would take them for a while. He literally kicked them out of the house and Christina had no say. She didn’t even know this was the plan until they had bags packed. And when she refused, he threatened to hurt them. Or her, or someone else in her family. And what was she to do?

How do we know when the line has been crossed? When is it really time to actually end a relationship? When he shoves you over the couch? When he won’t explain dried red stuff on the kitchen floor? When he sends your kids away, and it’s not the year 1842? ...My gut reaction? I want to say this was it. But she’s a victim, and the thought process of a victim, in the thick of manipulation like this, it’s not the same thing as the thought process of an outsider looking in. Which is what we are. We need to be very careful and we cannot judge her for the decisions she made, or the actions she didn’t take at this time. She believed she could not get out, but if she couldn’t get out, at least maybe her kids could. It’s a self-sacrificing act.

Grate started regularly beating Christina after this. And he was a sick fuck. He was infatuated with the injuries he left on her. POS Grate would not only take pictures of these injuries to admire later on, he would keep the camera, on his phone, or an actual camera, nearby, and if she was just the right amount of sad or upset, and especially if she was upset enough to cry, he’d have his camera ready.

One night, Christina woke up tied at her wrists and ankles. Grate was in the room with her and asked him what was going on. He told her he wanted to play a sex game. I’m sorry? 1st of all, I’m sleeping. 2nd, this is not how normal people wake their partners up to get busy. She tells him she doesn’t want to. And thankfully, he allows her to refuse him, he doesn’t rape her, but he does tell her, “OK fine. Then I’ll see you in the morning.” And he leaves her there, tied up for the rest of night. 

Finally finally, the day comes when Christina is done. She has found the courage to end this horrific relationship and she tells him to get. Instead, Grate beats her. He’s pummeling her, tossing her around the house and after she’s been down on the floor, he starts dragging her into the bathroom. And she knows, the bathroom is the farthest room from the street, it’s essentially the best room in the house to prevent anyone outside from hearing anything going on in there. And she knows she can’t let him get her in there. She’s clinging to the floor, grabbing door jams and pleading with him to stop. Christina is somehow able to get him to let go, and is able to escape his grasp and talk him down.

In the process of this attack, she sustains a severe hand injury. They talk, he continues to calm down, and eventually convinces him to take her to the hospital to have her hand x-rayed and treated, where they find multiple fractures. While they are in the ER, Grate and Christina are of course, interviewed by the nursing staff and asked how she got hurt. At first, because he is sitting right there, she tells them she fell. But then they are able to get him leave the room and she did admit to the staff that he’d hurt her. They had suspected as much, and they told her the police had been called and were on their way. Police arrive, and IDK why, but their arrival is announced over the hospital intercom, and Grate takes off.

Wonderful. This POS loser and abuser is now on the run. Christina decides to stay with her mom for the time being, because clearly, she can’t go home right now. And in the meantime, she gives police permission to search their house. They don’t find him there and decide to search for him elsewhere. But as it turns out, he’s in the attic and there was an officer up there during the search, but they missed him.

A few days later, Christina needs to go back to the house, she needs to pick up some of her personal things to have at mom's house while she’s staying there.  She gets inside, walks through the house to collect her things, and gets this eerie feeling. Like, somethings have been messed with since they went to the hospital a few days ago. And then POS Shawn Grate shows his face. The whole time she’d been there packing up, he’d been hiding in the couch! And he comes at her - he’s pissed he’s yelling, she’s yelling… the neighbors are hearing it, and they call police. This shit is - this is what movies are made of. Terrifying. So now police are knocking on the door. But Grate’s got a hammer and threatening her that she’d better get them to leave, or he was going to kill her. They know she was attacked a few days ago, they also know this fucknut is on the run. And now they are here, asking her what’s going on inside the house, and she’s giving a performance of a lifetime, saying whatever she can to prevent them from coming in and to get them to go away.

And I think, well, why can’t they just see through her? Why can’t they just come in anyway? Because there are rules. You tell an officer, “everything’s fine. No, no problems here, thanks though” … they’re not allowed to enter. They don’t know that just behind that door is the man who put her in the hospital, the man they are looking for. They don’t know he is armed and threatening her life just 5 feet away from the front door. 

After the officers leave, Christina and Grate get back to talking, and now he’s all the paranoid he can be. But with actually good reason this time. And Christina needs to get herself out of this situation. So she is able to convince him of a plan… we’ll leave separately, we’ll meet up down the street, and I’ll drive you somewhere so you can get someone else to get you out of town. He’s hesitant at first, but he doesn’t come up with anything better, so he agrees. Once out of the house, fuck no, she’s not following through on the plan… she calls police and tells them where he is. Grate is apprehended, charged and convicted of domestic assault, and sentenced to six months in jail. 

During this stint in jail, Christina was able to get a protective order against him. But he doesn't give a shit, and apparently, the warden doesn’t either. Because he is writing her letters, threatening to find her and fuck her up when he gets out!  How the fuck does this happen? Whoever that corrections officer was that allowed that letter out should have been fired. 

After a month there is a court hearing to consider letting him out early and Christina shows up and is like, are you out of your fucking mind? Look what he’s sending me!!” They deny him early release, thank God, and he’s going to have to serve the full six months. But that’s not all…  Christina is trying to get herself back together now that he’s gone. She’s of course watching over her shoulder - because prison escape’s are not unheard of - and she’s having a chat with her neighbors outside one day. And the neighbor's friend tells her that he was just in lock up, and he met Grate, and Grate told him he was counting the days until he got out. And the first thing he was going to do when he got out was find Christina. So she decides to flee, she’s got to get the fuck away from there, right? Of course, you’re not going to just sit there like a lame duck, waiting for him to show back up. No house, no job, no circle of friends is worth it. So she moved. She changed phone numbers, got a new car, and found a new job. She is essentially on the run now, but she is the victim in all this. It’s so unfair. 

It is not clear if Christina's kids were back with her at this point, but time goes on, she creates a new life, and two years later she gets a call from a friend in Marion. This is sometime in 2012. And they tell her, I just ran into Shawn and he was looking for you. “He was asking me where you moved to, but I didn't tell him, I just told him I’d give you his number in case you wanted to get in touch.” Could you imagine? You literally have to move away from your home, your work, your family, your friends, because your ex-boyfriend might kill you when he gets out of jail… and two years later you find out that threat is still real? Unbelievable. What do you say to that? How do you sleep at night, how do you function? Christina, we wish you the best girl.

Now we have to move on to this monster’s ex-wife. Yes, he’s that good. He convinced a woman to not only date him and ignore his “troubled past,” also to marry him within four months of meeting him. We are going to talk about Amber Nicole Bowman. I believe we are in the same area of Ohio still, from what I can tell, Grate never lives outside of a 75 radius, Marion to the east and Ashland to the west.

So it’s been less than a year since his “falling out” with Christina and he needs to get back to dating. Grate’s probably been schmoozing the ladies since he got released from jail, but nothing is sticking, like it stuck with Christina. I mean come on, he needs a woman to put dinner on his plate and a roof over his head. So he’s going to have to get on his best behavior. And where is the best place to find a nice woman to manipulate into a long-term relationship? Church, of course. Shawn Grate was able to ingratiate himself into a local parish, and needle his way into Amber Bowman's life. Amber tells us he was quiet, he wasn't extroverted or outgoing, but he had these beautiful eyes and whenever they would see each other at church he was kind, and warm, and complimented her. Soon enough, she decided to ask him out. And when he told her he didn’t drive, because he’d had his license taken away when he was a teenager - yes he’s like 35 right now - she offered to pick him up instead. Amber tells us the beginning of the relationship was a dream… he was attentive, he doted on her (as much as he can without a car or a job I guess), and made her feel like a queen. And by November 2011, they got pregnant, and they are married - yes, married - by December.

Amber says, “I didn’t see a violent person at all. I didn’t see any violent tendencies in him.” In the beginning. But then shortly after they got hitched, he started to change. He no longer wanted to go church… he was easily annoyed, then soon enough, easily angered. He started yelling at her all the time, and minor shit. And he once again, just like Christina experienced, he didn’t want either of them to socialize anymore, and he didn’t even want her going to church anymore. And then a few months later some random girl calls his cell phone, Shawn’s not around, so Amber answers it. And there’s this woman, asking for him. Amber says, “um, I'm his wife, who are you?”  and the woman tells her “oh, I’m a friend. He told me he lived with his sister and you'd just had a baby. I didn't know he was married.”

Amber, devastated, confronts her husband. And he denies it, but then tells her he's leaving her. He’s not meant for married life, what with all the monogamy and socializing, and church-going… Amber of course, is like, what is happening in my life? How did this happen? I met this great guy, we fell madly in love, we got married, we are starting a family, everything I ever wanted and prayed for… and now he’s this completely different person. He's mad all the time, now he’s cheating on me… and now he’s left me. Why doesn’t he love me anymore? What did I do to deserve this? All we can say is, it’s not you, it’s him. He’s a dickwad.

Amber spends the next few months trying to get him to come home, but failing. And then finally, the baby was born that summer in 2012. They have a beautiful baby girl. It should be the beginning of the rest of Amber’s life, she’s a new mother and new wife… but she’s without a husband. Her husband is somehow paying weekly rates at the dive motel in town, with prostitutes coming and going whenever he can scrap any money together. 

Amber would reach out to him, try to convince him that their marriage could be saved, but all he ever said in return was, you got any money? This POS legit only wanted to talk to her if she was going to support him or bring the baby by so he could see her. He did work here and there, and he did have some money coming in, but if Amber asked for any kind of child support he’d lose his temper and not talk to her.

Within a few months of the baby’s birth, Amber decided it was time to let it go and file for divorce. 

She still had to be in contact with him, though, and she still asked him for child support. So she wasn’t always giving him visitation times if he wasn’t giving her support… so Grate started threatening her and the baby and her family members. But it’s one thing to hang on to hope to reconcile, and yet another thing when the person you want to reconcile with has started threatening your safety, your child’s safety, and your family…By the spring of next year Amber was granted a restraining order against him.

They did meet up in 2014 though, and this was the closest Amber came to being hurt. She had been missing him - the old Shawn, the one she fell in love with - and offered to let him come by to the see their daughter, who was about 4yo by now. They had a nice visit with the little one, and Amber and Shawn ended up wrestling. He’s on his back, she’s over him, and somehow he’s triggered. All of a sudden, he’s flipping her over, now she's on her back, he’s straddling her, and he has his hands around her neck. He didn’t actually begin to choke her, but his expression and the way he was holding her down was enough to scare the shit out of Amber. She told him, “enough, this isn’t paying anymore, please get off me.” And luckily, he did. Amber tells us she had never been frightened like that before, but even so, she didn’t even dwell on it like she had just escaped being killed. That is until she found out what he was really capable of. 

When news broke about his arrest in 2016, Amber was at home. Relaxing on the couch and her mom called to tell her he was just arrested for killing multiple women. And she was shocked. She had known he had some anger problems and a troubled past, but to this extent? No. She couldn’t believe it at first, and then just like Christina, she came around within a few days… and then the anger came. And the fear, thinking, “I could have been one of them.”