A serial killer was sentenced to death yesterday for murdering 11 women and scattering their remains around his property, horrors that shook the city over police handling of crime in poor neighbourhoods.
Anthony Sowell, 51, his eyes closed at times, sat impassively as Judge Dick Ambrose announced 11 death sentences. The judge had the option of reducing the sentence to life in prison without chance of parole.
The judge alluded to Sowell’s stone-faced demeanour, saying he doubted it would have prompted reaction if the photos of victims had been brought to court, as some relatives of victims wanted.
Sowell never looked at relatives as they spoke during the sentencing hearing. He ignored the judge when asked if he wanted to speak and again when asked to sign a legal document.
Sowell’s conviction and death sentence will be appealed automatically to the Ohio Supreme Court. That process could take 10 years or more, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said.
Sowell was arrested on Halloween 2009, two days after police went to his house on a sexual-assault complaint and began finding bodies.
He went on trial in June and was convicted July 22 on 82 counts: aggravated murder, kidnapping, corpse abuse and evidence tampering.
Some families complained that police hadn’t taken the women’s disappearances seriously, in part because some had drug histories, criminal records or had disappeared repeatedly. Sowell’s defence team called no witnesses and instead focused on sparing his life with sympathetic testimony about his troubled childhood, his Marine Corps service and good behaviour while serving 15 years for a 1989 attempted rape conviction.
Sowell’s victims began disappearing in 2007. Prosecutors say he lured them to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs.
Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave in late 2009 after officers went to investigate a woman’s report that she had been raped there.
The victims were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in the house and yard.