Cleveland group: Rename serial killer's old street

April 25, 2012 - 9:45 AM

CLEVELAND (AP) — Some neighbors of a now-demolished home where the remains of 11 murdered women were found want the street renamed to escape the stigma of the crimes.

A task force representing residents, business owners, ministers and relatives of victims are proposing the renaming of Imperial Avenue, the street where Anthony Sowell lived in the impoverished Mount Pleasant neighborhood east of downtown.

The Rev. Jimmy Gates told The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/IohihS) that the idea is to turn the street's story "from tragedy to triumph."

But some relatives say the victims' families should memorialize the women as they choose and that the city should leave the property empty and not add the names of victims to any memorial.

"My mother is resting now, and I don't want her name on anything over there," said Donnita Carmichael, whose mother Tonia Carmichael was killed by Sowell.

"Would your kids play in that park? Would you eat or plant anything that came from a community garden grown on that soil? I don't think so."

The house was fenced off and kept intact for Sowell's trial last year, when the jury toured the site. It was demolished in December.

City Councilman Ken Johnson said the task force was a council-driven effort, and the group is expected to make a recommendation to council members in the next couple months.

"It is a bad memory for the people on the street, and the landlords can't rent their property," Johnson said. "Nobody wants to live there because of what happened."

Sowell, 52, is appealing his conviction and death sentence to the Ohio Supreme Court.

The murdered women began vanishing in 2007. Police discovered 10 bodies and a skull at Sowell's house in late 2009 after officers went there on a woman's report that she had been raped at the home.

Neighbors blamed a stench from the rotting bodies on an adjacent sausage factory, which spent $20,000 on new plumbing fixtures and sewer lines to try to make the smell go away.

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Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com