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The Anthony Sowell Murders: And Then There Were 10

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Cleveland, Ohio has its first serial killer since the unsolved “Torso Murders” back during the heyday of “Untouchable” Eliot Ness. While Ness never discovered the perp of that mysterious string of killings, not for lack of trying, the opposite situation exists with accused multiple murderer Anthony Sowell.

Sowell was released from a 15-year prison sentence he had served for a 1990 rape conviction. He returned to East Cleveland to live with an elderly aunt who, according to somewhat unreliable sources, moved to a nursing home soon after. Sowell registered as a sex offender and was supposedly visited by police on a regular basis. This claim seems dubious, now.

Since the first six bodies were found in Sowell’s home October 29, the community has been accusing Cleveland police of ignoring numerous missing person reports; complaints by several women in the neighborhood of assault, attempted rape, and kidnapping; and reports of putrid odors emanating from Sowell’s house since at least 2007. A sausage-making facility next door was blamed for the lingering stench.

Besieged by bad publicity and the unprecedented enormity of the crime, Cleveland Police Chief McGrath defended the local precinct and offered: “Police will not be surprised if nobody filed missing-persons reports on some of the people.”

What about the ones for whom there were missing person reports? Several neighbors who fear their loved one is a victim have spoken to the media and claim they made reports, put up flyers, and contacted the police without hearing any updates.

Violent crime in Cleveland has decreased substantially in the past decade, as it has around the country, and while the east side neighborhood where Sowell committed these blatant, in-your-face acts is not the worst or most dangerous neighborhood in town, it deserves more diligence. Was it because the victims are likely all African-American women, many of whom may have indulged in some controlled substances from time to time? Was it because the authorities routinely dismiss “missing person” reports on people living on the “fringe”? Maybe the issue is not race but rather socioeconomics. There’s no money in investigating missing persons, just lots of paperwork and time-consuming interviews of the neighbors. There’s much more revenue and glamour in drug busts and traffic tickets.

Some angry neighbors, who are becoming even more outraged as the body count grows, are accusing the CPD of negligence, indifference, and incompetence, especially now that the victim count is up to ten, and possibly eleven, with the discovery of a skull in a bucket in the house. The mayor was spared a reelection loss on Tuesday and may have dodged a bullet, but the police chief has some ’splainin’ to do. Especially when we read that it took “several weeks” to obtain a search warrant after the most recent (September 22) accusation of assault and rape was reported against Sowell.

Several weeks? Heck, we know from watching Law and Order that you can get a search warrant in an hour. Any judge in Cleveland would have signed one after reading Sowell’s arrest record and learning that he had been released in 2005 after doing a 15-year stint for rape. Sowell was finally arrested Saturday, October 31 and is being held without bail.

So, who will win the blame game when more bodies are found? And it’s pretty likely they will be, considering Sowell’s history of violence, drug use, and predatory habits; yet, he’s been out of prison for four years without incurring so much as a disorderly conduct charge by Cleveland’s finest.

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About Loretta Dillon

Loretta Dillon began her writing career publishing a neighborhood newspaper and handwritten and illustrated books as a child in a Cleveland suburb. Her strongest literary influences were MAD magazine and Mark Twain. When introduced to the internet, Dillon created a blog to showcase her satire that evolved into a popular forum on relationships, recovery and true crime stories, specifically spousal murder. Selected entries were published as a book in 2005 that was honored as a finalist for a non-fiction "Blooker" award. Dillon's comedy play, "The Smoking Diary" was produced off-Broadway in 2009.
  • joe

    ya talkin’ out yo azz – you don’t LIVE in tha hood like I did for 5 years. THE PEOPLE who live there are by and large, honest. But there are so many that are criminals. It’s a natural haven for them. that’s why Sowell was able to get away with it for so long there.

  • kristin

    the comment above is rude. he got away with this because the police didnt do their job. end of story. its ridiculous that the body count is this high, and will most likely rise. it disgusts me that it took so long for them to arrest sowell. but if it were one of their family members who had gone missing, they would have investigated asap. this is not an attack to the blogger in any way. the cleveland police need to get their crap together because this is so disturbing that they LET this go on for so long. the first identified victim was missing for ONE WHOLE YEAR! did the police not smell the dead bodies when they “checked” on sowell? absolutely disgusting and it makes me feel a lot less safe in cleveland.

  • hmmm

    Well, not to be racist but have you ever enter a black person’s home? It doesn’t smell good based on a lot of odor that they have, and products to keep their hair clean…etc which can cause a lot of odor stench that you are not used to. Also, they were thinking of the sausage factory down the street. Who would have thought that Sowell would have been like this when he causes no trouble to the neighborhood. People do have privacy rights in this country, that’s why we call it the Land of Freedom. You can’t run around and accuse people. And unfortunately that it turned out this way.

    I do however agree with kristin based on the facts that Cleveland’s finest did not make any attempts on checking out Sowell’s place, i mean, the man do have a history and there are missing people in the neighborhood… It’s not too hard to check out the criminals in that neighborhood, is there? Most offenders continues to commit crimes, just not everyone commit them like Dexter.

    God blessed those that died in the unfortunate deaths, and I hope to God have mercy on Sowell’s soul.

  • Melissa

    I can’t believe this. Something went very wrong within the police department. They should have been investigating the smell a long time ago. And not just by taking a quick look and file a report but go from door to door, interviewing people, asking questions and maybe find enough evidence to get a warrant to search a home (Sowell’s for instance).

    But well… that’s something they have to look at right now. Who made the mistakes (besides Sowell) and who’s responsible.

    R.I.P. for the victims and for the killer… I hope you’ll rot in hell.

  • in answer

    to hmmm black people dont stink smell your own funky ass!!!1

  • coolerdude

    Yeah, hmmmmmm, I’m friends with quite a few black people, and they don’t stink. I ain’t never smelled a black person that puts ‘dead people’ cream in their hair or on their bodies. Bottom line…Po Po didn’t do their jobs. Health Dept. didn’t do their jobs. I don’t blame them for not wanting to investigate and look into this scumbag’s personal matters, but THAT’S THEIR JOB!!!!! THEY HAVE TO DO WHAT THEY ARE BEING PAID TO DO – INVESTIGATE PEOPLE WHO BREAK LAWS. Fire all officers who were supposed to check on this creep and check into reported rapes, but didn’t do anything, and get new recruits. Sounds like the Chief Po Po needs to go too. He’s not leading very well.

  • Jennifer Gross

    Every one from high to low involved in this looking the other way should be fired. Plenty of people would relocate for a good job. Even if it’s from a another state. Jerks all men/Women are created equal. I am upset as a fellow human bean. That’s why if they let them out remove the balls first.