ASHLAND - Stacey Stanley's uncle told those attending a vigil for the three women whose bodies were discovered in Ashland and Mansfield this week he believes his niece died for a reason.
That was to lead family members searching for Stacey toward a house in Ashland where a woman who was still alive was being kept captive, Ron Stanley told a crowd of a couple of hundred people gathered in a parking lot on Orange Street in Ashland, near where two of the womens' bodies were found.
Family members believe their efforts to find Stacey, who was last seen at a nearby BP station Sept. 8, led Shawn M. Grate to drift off after a sleepless night — allowing a woman he is accused of holding captive in a vacant house to make a whispered call to 911.
Grate later led authorities to a property in Madison Township in Richland County, where a third woman's body was found.
On Thursday, he was charged with two counts of murder, involving Stacey Stanley and a second victim not yet positively identified, and with kidnapping.
Some of the approximately 300 people attending the vigil, organized by Becky Baldauf of Ashland, were family members or friends of the missing women.
Kristi Lazzara, fiancee to Kurtis Stanley, Stacey's son, told a reporter that a psychic pointed family members to search the area near the vacant house where Grate was found.
"I know he (Grate) was getting nervous … closed in on … ," Ron Stanley, Stacey's uncle, told those attending. "I guarantee he stayed up all night."
When Grate finally drifted off, "that was no accident. That was God almighty," the uncle said. "Stacey stopped that man in his tracks, with her life. Who knows how many more women he would have killed? My niece is a hero. She died for a reason. I want to thank God that, out of this whole city, this is where he led us."
Ron Stanley said Stacey's mother and grandmother had strong personalities. The grandmother lived a tough life, using a wringer washer and slaughtering chickens as she raised nine children. "Stacey grew up with that grandma. I guarantee you, this monster didn't go down without her fighting. … She did not submit to him for one second, I guarantee it," he said.
Prior to the vigil, a group of motorcyclists, including a member of Stacey's family, put up a cloud of white smoke in a burnout conducted in the parking lot, as a salute of remembrance to the victims.
Candles held by those at the vigil were inscribed "Rest in Heaven," with the names of missing area women.
Those in the crowd raised their candles in remembrance. "For all of them," Baldauf and others called out. "We don't know their names, but they're still gone."
Ron Stanley led the crowd in singing, as family members gathered in a circle.
Afterward, Lazzara said her young daughter, Trinity, sometimes stayed with Stacey over the past two years and was beginning to consider her as a grandma. "She would dance and sing with me," Trinity said.
Kurtis Stanley "loved his mom very much, and she was good to him," Lazzara said. "They were really close. She was a good mother, a good grandma."
Chrys Ingersoll of North Fairfield went to school with Stacey in New London. "She was a sweet person. She always had a smile." She described her childhood friend as a 'people' person. "Big hair, big smiles," she said.