- Associated Press - Thursday, December 29, 2016

ASHLAND, Ohio (AP) - Attorneys for a man suspected of killing several women in Ohio are pursuing an insanity defense and asking a judge to have someone determine whether the man is competent to stand trial.

Lawyers for 40-year-old Shawn Grate said in a court filing this week that he is not guilty by reason of insanity. A competency hearing already was scheduled for Jan. 6 in Ashland County court.

Grate’s case began in September when a woman called 911 and said she’d been held captive at an Ashland home, and responding authorities found the bodies of two other women at the abandoned property. Police arrested Grate, who also is accused of raping the woman who called police.

He is charged with 23 counts, including murder, in the potential death penalty case. Prosecutors and Grate’s attorneys are blocked from publicly commenting because of a gag order.

Preliminary autopsy results showed both women, a 43-year-old and a 29-year-old, were strangled, the Mansfield News Journal reported.

Investigators say Grate also admitted killing at least two other women, though he hasn’t been charged in all of the deaths.

Grate told investigators he couldn’t remember the name of his first victim, a woman who was selling magazines door-to-door, but that he stabbed her and dumped her body, which was found near Marion in 2007. The woman hasn’t been identified.

Authorities said Grate told them he killed another woman in June. Her body was found near Mansfield.

Police also were investigating whether Grate is connected to the 2015 death of a fifth woman, who was found in woods in Ashland County. A coroner initially ruled her death was a fatal drug overdose and found no signs of traumatic injuries, but Grate’s arrest prompted police to take another look at the case.

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