Anthony Sowell

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Anthony Sowell
Anthony E. Sowell.jpg
Sowell in the wanted flyer issued by the Cuyahoga County sheriff office, November 2009
Born
Anthony Edward Sowell

(1959-08-19)August 19, 1959
Ohio, U.S.
DiedFebruary 8, 2021(2021-02-08) (aged 61)
Conviction(s)
Criminal penaltyDeath sentence for murder
Details
Victims11 known
Span of crimes
May 2007–September 2009
CountryUnited States
State(s)Ohio
Date apprehended
October 31, 2009

Anthony Edward Sowell (August 19, 1959 – February 8, 2021)[1] was an American serial killer and rapist known as the Cleveland Strangler. He was arrested in October 2009 after the bodies of 11 women were discovered by police at his home in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.[2]

Early life[edit]

Anthony Edward Sowell was raised in East Cleveland, one of seven children born to single parent Claudia "Gertrude" Garrison. Seven other children belonging to Sowell's sister also lived in the household, having moved in after her death following a chronic illness. According to Sowell's niece, Leona Davis, Garrison subjected them to physical abuse while her own children watched from adjacent rooms. In one incident, Garrison forced Davis to strip naked in front of the other children, then whipped her with electrical cords until she bled. Sowell himself began raping his niece on an almost daily basis for two years, starting when she was 10. It was also reported by Davis that the other males in the household also participated in the rapes.[3][4]

Military service[edit]

On January 24, 1978, at the age of 19, Sowell entered the United States Marine Corps. He attended recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island in South Carolina, then was further trained as an electrician at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.[5] On July 13, 1978, he was assigned to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, also in North Carolina. In 1980, he spent a year overseas with the 3rd Force Service Support Group, then returned to Cherry Point.[6]

Sowell was ordered to Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan on January 20, 1984. A year later, he transferred to Camp Pendleton in California for three days until his discharge on January 18, 1985. During his seven-year Marine Corps career, he received a Good Conduct Medal with one service star, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Certificate of Commendation, a Meritorious Mast, and two Letters of Appreciation.[6]

1989 attack, incarceration, and release[edit]

In 1989, a woman who was three months pregnant attempted to leave Sowell's home. He bound her hands and feet with a tie and belt, then gagged her with a rag. She told police: "He choked me real hard because my body started tingling. I thought I was going to die."[7] He was charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted rape. He pleaded guilty to attempted rape, and served 15 years in prison. He was released in 2005.[8]

Sowell worked in a factory until 2007 when he began collecting unemployment benefits.[7] Neighbors said he earned a living selling scrap metal.[2] They complained to the health department of a foul smell in the neighborhood.[7] He was a member of an online dating service, where he said he was a "master" looking for a submissive person to train.[9]

Lori Frazier, a niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, began a relationship with Sowell shortly after his release from prison and resided in his home. She said she smelled decaying bodies and was told the smell was coming from Sowell's stepmother. When she moved out, she said the smell was from Ray's Sausage Shop, located next door. In a video interview she mentions moving out in 2007, but in a published article she is said to have been living there until 2008.[10] A friend said Frazier stopped spending time at the home in 2008.[11]

Discovery of bodies and arrest[edit]

In September 2009,[6] Sowell invited Latundra Billups to his home for a drink. On September 22, she told police that after a few drinks, he became angry and hit, choked and raped her as she passed out. On October 29, police arrived at his home with an arrest warrant. He was not there, but he was located and arrested two days later.[6]

The bodies of two women were buried in a shallow grave in the basement and four other women were found on the third floor of the home, in crawlspaces.[12] After digging in the backyard, investigators found three more bodies and partial remains of a fourth. A human skull in a bucket inside the house brought the body count to 11. Most of the victims were killed by manual strangulation and others were gagged or had ligatures on their bodies when they were discovered.[7]

Sowell also raped three women, luring them to his property with an invitation to smoke crack cocaine with him.[13]

At the time of his arrest, Sowell was 50 years old. He had been living at that location for four years.[7] He was held on $5 million bond.[14] His trial was originally supposed to start on June 2, 2010[15] but was repeatedly delayed: first to September 7 to give his attorneys more time to prepare,[15] then to February 14, 2011,[16] then to May 2 at the request of his attorneys who needed more time to examine thousands of records and hours of surveillance video footage shot from the property next door to Sowell's,[16] and later to June 6 at the request of the prosecution due to scheduling conflicts.[16] The trial began on June 6, 2011.[13][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

Conviction, sentencing, and appeals[edit]

Sowell was charged with eleven counts of aggravated murder and 74 counts of rape, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but later changed his plea to simply "not guilty."[26] On July 22, 2011, he was convicted on all but two counts, including the murders of the eleven women whose bodies were found in his house in 2009. On August 10, jurors recommended the death penalty.[27] On August 12, Judge Dick Ambrose upheld the jury's recommendation.[28] On September 14, he was placed on death row and imprisoned at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.[1]

That November, Sowell's lawyers, Jeffry F. Kelleher and Thomas Rein, filed a Notice of Appeal with the Supreme Court of Ohio. Sowell's execution was set for October 29, 2012, but that March, a Motion for Stay of Execution was filed; the motion was granted in April, pending final disposition of the appeal.[29] In October, his new lawyers, Jeffrey M. Gamso and Erika Cunliffe of the Cuyahoga County Public Defender's office, appealed to have his conviction and death sentence overturned on 21 points,[30] with the main three being:

  • that he did not receive a fair trial because of the extensive media coverage. The "media attention was overwhelming, generating thousands of news stories, and…local coverage was 'both frenzied and sustained.'"[31]
  • that the courtroom had been closed to the public "during an evidentiary hearing and while a jury was picked."[32]
  • and that he had received "lousy legal representation."[33] "Sowell's trial attorneys should have had their client plead guilty to killing the women and then focus their efforts on preventing Sowell from getting the death penalty."[31]

In September 2014, the court asked both parties to address three issues.[34]

On April 5, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court heard arguments from Sowell's appellant attorneys and the Cuyahoga County D.A. representing the State of Ohio regarding the merits of the closed pre-trial Suppression Hearing prior to trial, and the defendant's right to a fair and public trial. His lawyers argued that his Sixth Amendment right was violated by closing the Suppression Hearing to the press, and that the Court should commute his death sentence to life imprisonment as a remedy to the structural error that resulted in the violation. They also argued that counsel had made errors, and "urged the Ohio Supreme Court to send the case back to Cuyahoga County for a retrial. 'Frankly we blew it,' attorney Jeffrey Gamso told the Ohio Supreme Court."[35]

The State argued that if Sowell's Sixth Amendment right was violated via the closed pre-trial suppression hearing, it would not have affected the outcome of the trial, as the evidence was overwhelming, and that "Sowell's attorneys were the ones who asked multiple times in his presence for the jury selection to be done privately, without cameras in the courtroom."[32] The State also asserted that Sowell has never denied his guilt, and that the heinous nature of his crimes—coupled with little mitigating evidence to deny imposing the death penalty—warrants affirming the death sentence.[35]

On December 8, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Sowell, affirming his aggravated murder convictions and death sentence.[36] In May 2017, he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.[37][38] In October, it chose to not hear him.[39] In February 2018, the Ohio Supreme Court denied his request to reopen his appeal.[40] In May 2020, the State of Ohio’s 8th District Appellate court denied his appeal.[41]

Death[edit]

Sowell contracted an unspecified illness on January 21, 2021. He was transferred to an end-of-life care facility in Columbus and stayed there for sixteen days. At 3:27 p.m. on February 8, Sowell died.[42] Prison authorities denied that his death was related to COVID-19.[43]

Victims[edit]

On November 5, 2009, two of the eleven African American women victims were identified. The first was Tonia Carmichael, a 53-year-old who had disappeared more than a year earlier. Her body was found buried in his backyard. She appeared to have been strangled and was identified through the use of DNA evidence. Her mother had reported her missing in December 2008.[44]

The second victim was identified as Telacia Fortson, a 31-year-old who had disappeared five months earlier. Although she had been missing since June, her mother did not report her missing until she heard the news coverage regarding the dead bodies discovered in Sowell's home.[45]

On November 8, 2009, three more bodies were identified. Crystal Dozier was a 38-year-old who went missing in May 2007. The mother of seven children, she lived in the area where her body was discovered. Her family reported her missing to the Cleveland Police Department. This was not the first time she had gone missing, and the family accused the police of failing to investigate. The family took it upon themselves to post fliers and call hospitals.[14]

Amelda "Amy" Hunter was 47. A beautician and mother of three, she did not live in the area where her body was found, but she did visit frequently. A previous injury left her unable to use one of her arms. Her family did not report her missing until after police began removing bodies from Sowell's house.[14]

Michelle Mason, 45, was last seen in October 2008. She lived in the area where her body was found. According to records, the police conducted a full investigation when her family reported her missing.[14]

Records of missing persons going back to Sowell's June 2005 release from prison were searched and DNA testing was conducted on the bodies found at Sowell's house. Protesters holding posters of missing loved ones gathered outside his home at the time.[2]

East Cleveland police also reopened several cold cases from the late 1980s. The murders by strangulation used a similar modus operandi and had stopped around 1989, the same time that Sowell was arrested.[46] The FBI at the time was gathering information to see if Sowell may have been linked to unsolved cases in cities where he once lived.[14][47]

List[edit]

  • Crystal Dozier, age 38
  • Tishana Culver, 33
  • Leshanda Long, 24
  • Tonia Carmichael, 53
  • Michelle Mason, 45
  • Kim Yvette Smith, 44
  • Nancy Cobbs, 44
  • Amelda Hunter, 47
  • Janice Webb, 48
  • Telacia Fortson, 31
  • Diane Turner, 48

[48]

Aftermath[edit]

After Sowell's conviction, in December 2011, his former residence at 12205 Imperial Avenue was demolished on the order of city leaders.[49][50] He was incarcerated at the Chillicothe Correctional Institution. On January 21, 2021, he began receiving end-of-life care at the Franklin Medical Center for a terminal illness. He died on February 8, in Columbus, Ohio.[51][52]

The case was profiled on the series premiere of the Investigation Discovery show Killer Instinct.[53]

Unseen, a documentary film about the victims and survivors of Sowell, was produced by Laura Paglin and released in 2016.[54]

In November 2012, Sowell released a letter through the website Serial Killers Ink.[55] The letter was to the people of Cleveland. He railed against former trial judge and newly elected Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty and addressed the issue of artwork which he had recently sent to the owner of the website.[56][57][58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Offender Search Detail". Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Archived from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Six bodies at US rapist's house". BBC News. October 31, 2009. Archived from the original on August 5, 2017. Retrieved November 1, 2009.
  3. ^ Palmer, Kim (August 2, 2011). "Serial killer Sowell's family testify he was abused". Reuters. Archived from the original on June 8, 2020. Retrieved June 8, 2020.
  4. ^ Atassi, Leila (August 2, 2011). "Serial killer Anthony Sowell began raping niece when both were children, witness testifies". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017.
  5. ^ Amato, Laura (August 17, 2015). "Anthony Sowell, 'Killer Instinct': 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy.com. Retrieved February 12, 2021.
  6. ^ a b c d Wilson, Drew C. (November 5, 2009). "Marine Corps says accused serial killer stationed twice at Cherry Point and once at Camp Lejeune". Havelock News. Archived from the original on November 9, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
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  8. ^ Baird, Gabriel (November 5, 2009). "Anthony Sowell was considered unlikely to attack again in 2005 evaluation". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on August 25, 2011. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  9. ^ Martinez, Edecio (November 4, 2009). "Anthony Sowell Cruised Sex Fetish Site While Dead Bodies Rotted in His Cleveland Home". CBS News. Archived from the original on November 4, 2009. Retrieved November 4, 2009.
  10. ^ Smith, Ryan (November 12, 2009). "Mayor's Niece Lived With Alleged "Cleveland Strangler" Anthony Sowell and Rotting Bodies". CBS News. Archived from the original on January 5, 2010. Retrieved December 17, 2009.
  11. ^ Morris, Phillip (November 24, 2009). "Why didn't the serial killer kill her, she wonders?". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on December 28, 2009.
  12. ^ Puente, Mark (November 3, 2009). "Police discover 10 victims at Anthony Sowell's home". Cleveland Metro. Archived from the original on March 7, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2009.
  13. ^ a b Chuck, Crow (June 30, 2011). "Pleasant conversations with Anthony Sowell turned violent without warning, 3 women testify". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c d e Baird, Gabriel (November 8, 2009). "Names put to three more victims in Anthony Sowell case". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio: Cleveland Live. Archived from the original on September 10, 2012. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  15. ^ a b Farkas, Karen (May 6, 2010). "Anthony Sowell, accused of killing 11 women, to go on trial Sept. 7". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on January 14, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2010.
  16. ^ a b c Atassi, Leila (January 11, 2011). "Trial for suspected serial-killer postponed a fourth time, now set for June". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on January 30, 2011. Retrieved January 19, 2011.
  17. ^ Atassi, Leila (July 15, 2011). "Suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell told police he 'punished' drug-addicted women, interrogation video reveals". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on September 2, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  18. ^ Atassi, Leila (July 7, 2011). "Anthony Sowell hinted at yet undiscovered horrors, police sergeant testifies". Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  19. ^ Shaw, Scott (July 5, 2011). "Anthony Sowell trial: Surviving family members of Imperial Avenue killings recount their anguish". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  20. ^ Scott, Michael (July 12, 2011). "More 'grotesque' detail expected in third week of Anthony Sowell capital murder trial". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on November 4, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  21. ^ Shaw, Scott (July 6, 2011). "Anthony Sowell admitted to stashing bodies in Imperial Avenue home, neighbor testifies". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on July 9, 2011. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  22. ^ Shaw, Scott (July 6, 2011). "Nurse takes stand in Anthony Sowell serial murder trial, describes taking DNA evidence". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on April 15, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  23. ^ Steer, Jen (July 21, 2011). "Day 16: Anthony Sowell trial". Newsnet5.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2015. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  24. ^ Fong, Marvin (July 6, 2011). "Judge acquits serial-killings defendant Anthony Sowell on 2 of 85 counts, state rests its case". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on June 27, 2012. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  25. ^ Scott, Michael (July 2, 2011). "Week one of Anthony Sowell trial hard on victims' families: video interview with PD's Stan Donaldson". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on May 2, 2013. Retrieved November 23, 2012.
  26. ^ "'House of horrors' suspect due in court". CNN. March 24, 2010. Archived from the original on November 7, 2009. Retrieved March 24, 2010.
  27. ^ Scott, Michael (August 10, 2011). "Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell's sentence: jury recommends death". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  28. ^ "Anthony Sowell to die for murders of 11 women; judge accepts jury's advice". The Plain Dealer. August 12, 2011. Archived from the original on October 31, 2017. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  29. ^ "Case No. 2011-1921 Entry" (PDF). Supreme Court of Ohio. April 2, 2012. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  30. ^ "APPELLANT'S REPLY BRIEF AND ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR" (PDF). Supreme Court of Ohio. April 25, 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 21, 2013. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  31. ^ a b Krouse, Peter (April 26, 2013). "Anthony Sowell's attorneys dispute prosecutors' claims that serial killer got fair trial". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  32. ^ a b Dissell, Rachel (October 3, 2014). "Ohio Supreme Court asks whether Anthony Sowell's right to a public trial was violated, attorneys respond". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on May 31, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  33. ^ Krouse, Peter (March 12, 2013). "Serial killer Anthony Sowell was given a fair trial, Cuyahoga County prosecutors claim in court filing". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on September 16, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  34. ^ "Case No. 2011-1921 Entry" (PDF). Supreme Court of Ohio. September 3, 2014. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  35. ^ a b Borchardt, Jackie (April 5, 2016). "Anthony Sowell's lawyer asks Ohio Supreme Court to save his life". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on May 9, 2016. Retrieved May 19, 2016.
  36. ^ Higgs, Robert (December 8, 2016). "Ohio Supreme Court upholds convictions of mass murderer Anthony Sowell". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on December 8, 2016. Retrieved December 11, 2016.
  37. ^ Shaffer, Cory (May 25, 2017). "Anthony Sowell appeals case to U.S. Supreme Court". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on May 31, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  38. ^ "Anthony Sowell, notorious Cleveland serial killer, appeals case to Supreme Court". CBS News. May 23, 2017. Archived from the original on May 30, 2017. Retrieved June 1, 2017.
  39. ^ Heisig, Eric (October 2, 2017). "U.S. Supreme Court will not hear Cleveland mass murderer Anthony Sowell's appeal". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on October 4, 2017. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
  40. ^ Shaffer, Cory (February 14, 2018). "Ohio Supreme Court won't reopen Anthony Sowell appeal". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on February 14, 2018. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  41. ^ Dakota, Michael (May 14, 2020). "Serial killer Anthony Sowell denied appeal". cleveland19.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2020. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  42. ^ Heisig, Eric (February 8, 2021). "Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell dies of terminal illness". Cleveland.com.
  43. ^ "Convicted serial killer of eleven women dies in prison". KGW. February 8, 2021.
  44. ^ Kates, Brian (November 5, 2009). "Police ID first of 11 victims found decomposing in Anthony Sowell's Ohio home as Tonia Carmichael". New York Daily News. Archived from the original on November 8, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  45. ^ "2nd Victim: Cuyahoga County Coroner ID's Second Imperial Body". WIOO Action News. November 5, 2009. Archived from the original on November 8, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  46. ^ "East Cleveland: Did suspected serial killer also strike in 1989?" Archived December 5, 2020, at the Wayback Machine, WKYC-TV, November 7, 2009.
  47. ^ Roberts, Soraya (November 9, 2009). "Anthony Sowell rape and murder case goes international". Daily News. New York. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2010.
  48. ^ Pinckard, Cliff (February 9, 2021). "Anthony Sowell: Read The Plain Dealer's original coverage of the Imperial Avenue murders, profiles of his victims". Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  49. ^ Cleveland to demolish serial killer's home Archived June 29, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, CNN.com, December 5, 2011
  50. ^ Sowell's Imperial Avenue Home to be Demolished Tuesday Archived December 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, WJW-TV, December 5, 2011
  51. ^ Seis, April (February 9, 2021). "Anthony Sowell, serial killer known as the "Cleveland Strangler," has died at 61 from a terminal illness". CBS News. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  52. ^ Heisig, Eric (February 9, 2021). "Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell dies of terminal illness in prison hospital". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  53. ^ Hughes, Mike (August 17, 2015). "MSU grad Chris Hansen returns with 'Killer Instinct'". Detroit Free Press. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015.
  54. ^ "Unseen (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 9, 2021.
  55. ^ Russ, Dick (November 12, 2010). "Anthony Sowell's 'artwork' for sale online". WKYC. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  56. ^ Krouse, Peter (November 12, 2010). "Serial killer Anthony Sowell's artwork back on 'murderabilia' website". The Plain Dealer. Archived from the original on April 3, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  57. ^ Freeman, Kevin (November 12, 2010). "Death Row Drawings: Sowell's Controversial Artwork is Selling". Fox8.com. Archived from the original on November 15, 2012. Retrieved November 13, 2012.
  58. ^ Russ, Dick (November 12, 2010). "Anthony Sowell 'artwork' buyer defends purchase". WKYC. Archived from the original on February 9, 2013. Retrieved November 13, 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • Nobody's Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer - Steve Miller.[1]

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Miller, Steve (2012). Nobody's Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell, the Cleveland Serial Killer. New York City: Penguin Publishing. ISBN 9780425250518. Archived from the original on October 22, 2020. Retrieved November 23, 2012 – via Google Books. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)