Shawn Grate, centre left, listens to his attorneys Robert Whitney, left, and Rolf Whitney during a trial in Ashland, Ohio. Picture: Tom E. Puskar/The Times Gazette via AP

Ashland, Ohio - An occasional drifter described as a charmer with a dark side was sentenced to death Friday for strangling two women whose bodies were found underneath piles of clothes in a vacant home.

An Ashland County judge accepted a jury's recommendation that Shawn Grate, who is also suspected in two more deaths, should get the death penalty.

Grate, 41, was convicted nearly a month ago of killing two women in 2016. Their bodies were found after a third woman called 911 and said she was being held captive. Jurors convicted Grate on aggravated murder and kidnapping charges.

He apologized on Friday before the sentencing, telling the victims' families that he wished he could have changed what happened. "Not for me, but for you guys," he said.

"I can't say I am normal, but I know right from wrong," he said. "I ask you to forgive me, find it in your heart someday. I know not today, someday."

Many of those who were in court clapped loudly when the judge issued the sentence in the deaths of 43-year-old Stacey Stanley and 29-year-old Elizabeth Griffith.

Stanley's brother, Scott Adams, called Grate a monster.

"There's so much anger built up inside of me for you," he said. "You deserve much more than you'll get."

Grate, described by those who know him as a charmer with a dark side, moved from place to place in Ashland and Mansfield — two cities that sit between Cleveland and Columbus.

He sometimes lived with women he had met or squatted in abandoned homes.

Authorities have said that Grate confessed after his September 2016 arrest to killing Candice Cunningham at a vacant Richland County home. Her body was found in a nearby ravine.

Grate also has been linked to the 2015 slaying of Rebekah Leicy. Her body was found in Ashland County.

The Richland County prosecutor has said he will pursue charges against Grate in the slayings of those two women.

AP