Verdict reached in Ohio case involving 11 deaths

July 22, 2011 - 12:30 PM
Cleveland Bodies Found

Anthony Sowell listens during the prosecutions' closing arguments in his trial in Cleveland on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. Sowell is charged with killing 11 women and dumping their bodies around his property. (AP Photo/Marvin Fong, Pool)

CLEVELAND (AP) — The jury weighing the case against a Cleveland man accused of killing 11 women and hiding their remains in his house and backyard reached a verdict, and it was expected to be announced Friday afternoon.

Anthony Sowell, 51, had pleaded not guilty to killing the women. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

The women began disappearing in 2007, and prosecutors say Sowell 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.

Many of the women found in Sowell's home had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. They were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in various parts of the house and yard. Most were strangled with household objects and had traces of cocaine or depressants in their systems. One woman's skull was found in a bucket in the basement.

Prosecutors showed the jurors an eight-hour taped interrogation of Sowell after he was first arrested.

During the interrogation, Sowell let out a cry of anguish and buried his head in his hands as two detectives pressed him to explain how the bodies ended up in his house in a drug-ridden neighborhood on the east side of town.

"It had to be me," Sowell said in the video, rubbing his head with his hands. "I can't describe nobody. I cannot do it. I don't know. But I'm trying to."

Sowell told detectives during the interrogation that he heard a voice that told him not to go into a third-floor bedroom where two bodies were found. He also told them about "blackouts" and "nightmares" in which he would hurt women with his hands. He told detectives that he began losing control of his anger about the time the victims started disappearing.

The defense didn't call any witnesses.

In his closing statement, defense attorney John Parker questioned the credibility of several witnesses, noting that some had struggled with drug addiction and mental health issues, and criticized police officers for failing to properly investigate when the victims' families tried to report them missing.

He asked jurors whether the prosecution proved who actually killed the women — at one point suggesting that more than one person may have dragged the bodies around the house.