Ohio man accused of living with bodies indicted

Liz De La Torre

From The Associated Press

CLEVELAND – A registered sex offender attacked 14 women and killed 11 of them, leaving their remains in and around his home, a prosecutor said Tuesday in announcing a grand jury indictment against the suspected serial killer.

Anthony Sowell, 50, is indicted on murder charges in the deaths of 11 women, plus dozens of other counts, including kidnapping, abuse of a corpse, attempted murder, assault and rape.

“The Cuyahoga County grand jury has returned an indictment against this monster for brutalizing three women, two of whom were raped, and murdering 11 more,” said County Prosecutor Bill Mason, speaking at courthouse news conference. He expects to seek the death penalty.

Sowell’s attorney in a rape case incorporated in the indictment, Brian McGraw, did not immediately return a message left by The Associated Press on Tuesday. Sowell, jailed in a segregation cell, has turned away family and media requests to visit, Sheriff Bob Reid said. The Associated Press wrote to him last month asking for a jailhouse interview but there was no response.

Mason said Sowell lured vulnerable women to his home and that, “once inside, he tormented them, threatened them and assaulted them. He murdered 11 of them.”

Authorities have said the victims were homeless or living alone and had drug or alcohol addictions.

Mason said the charges include allegations that Sowell attacked three women who survived: a 40-year-old woman who says she was assaulted on Dec. 8, 2008; a 36-year-old who says she was attacked Sept. 22 and whose complaint prompted the search of Sowell’s home; and a 51-year-old woman who said she was assaulted Oct. 20.

Mason called the alleged attacks “eerily similar” and said investigators were still trying to determine whether Sowell was connected to unsolved slayings in nearby East Cleveland and elsewhere, including some cities where he was stationed when he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1978 to 1985.

Sowell was charged with two separate aggravated murder counts in each of the 11 deaths; for each victim he was charged with premeditated murder and with murder while committing the felony of kidnapping. A jury convicting him could choose one or the other, but not both. Each murder count carries the possibility of the death penalty.

Mason said the 11 homicide victims, in general, were strangled with items like cords or rope, by hands or by an unknown method.

Mason would not discuss what evidence might connect Sowell to the 11 homicides beyond the discovery of the bodies.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Richard Bombik said Sowell had “a specific scheme of doing things … a distinct pattern.”

“The three people that survived in this case will be probably the most important evidence in the case because it will show a pattern,” he said. “The guy does have this thing for choking people. … It’s the same pattern except three of them lived to escape and talk about it.”

He said the testimony also would be useful because decomposition of the slaying victims limited forensic testing.

“A lot of them were nude from the waist down, even when he buried them,” he said.

Sowell previously had been charged with five of the murders.

His home was searched after the 36-year-old woman said he had attacked her there. He has already pleaded not guilty to charges with rape, kidnapping, felonious assault and attempted murder in that case.

Sowell, who served 15 years in prison for a 1989 attempted rape, was arrested while walking in the neighborhood on Oct. 31, two days after police began searching his home.

Of the 11 alleged victims, all black women, 10 have been identified. The remains of 10 women and a skull were found in his home and buried in the yard.