Forensic Studies 006: Anthony Sowell

on June 28, 2011 in Forensic Studies, Serial Killers by

Anthony Sowell, a convicted sex offender, is suspected of killing and dismembering eleven women in Cleveland, Ohio between 2007 and 2009. Sowell grew up in East Cleveland where most of the homes were foreclosed on and many of the residents received government aid such as food stamps. At the age of 19, Sowell entered the United States Marines Corps, attended recruit training in South Carolina, and then was further trained as an electrician in North Carolina.

In 1978, he was assigned to another station in North Carolina and in 1980, spent a year overseas and returned to North Carolina. He was then ordered to a base camp in Japan in 1984. A year later, he transferred to a camp in California for three days until his discharge on January 18, 1985. During his seven-year Marine Corps career, Corporal Sowell received a Good Conduct Medal with one service star, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Certificate of Commendation, a Meritorious Mast, and two Letters of Appreciation.

All of these accomplishments show that he was a skilled serial killer. He was a successful professional, was intelligent, considered a pillar of the local community, won a professional award, was an ex-soldier, and had no previous criminal record. He was not a typical serial killer. This is why community residents didn’t know what he was. People who interacted with Sowell through work and his neighborhood claim Sowell appeared to be a normal guy. He was well known for locally selling scrap metal. Individuals that came into contact with Sowell said that he appeared to be a normal person.

In 1989, a woman who was three months pregnant went to Sowell’s home voluntarily. When she tried to leave, he bound her hands and feet with a tie and belt, then gagged her with a rag. Sowell was charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted rape. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of attempted rape, and served 15 years in prison. He was released in 2005.

Lori Frazier, the niece of Mayor Frank G. Jackson, began a relationship with Sowell shortly after his release from prison, and resided in his home. She smelled the stench of the bodies, but Sowell told her told that the smell was coming from Sowell’s stepmother and she believed it. When the stepmother moved out, the smell was supposedly coming from Ray’s Sausage shop.

Neighbors and even a city councilman who lived in the area had failed to realize that the stench in the area around Sowell’s home was human flesh. Everyone thought that the smell was byproduct of a nearby sausage factory or sewage being backed up.

There was an incident where a woman was repeatedly punched in the face for not letting Sowell buy her a drink at a neighborhood bar on evening. Sowell then took her outside the bar where he tried to rape her and began to drag toward his home. The only way she was able to get free was to gouge his face. Law officials did investigate this incident, but the charges were dismissed due to the victim dropping the charges. After that encounter, the six women began to disappear.

With only four of the women being reported missing, the women’s disappearance was not a strange occurrence due to most of the women being drug addicts. Little or no contact with family and friends was common.

In September, 2009 Sowell invited a woman he knew to his home for a drink. On September 22, 2009 she reported to police that after a few drinks, he became angry, hit her, choked her and raped her as she passed out. On October 29, police arrived at his home with a warrant to arrest him for the alleged rape. He was not there, but they encountered a bad smell in the home and began to search of its source. Upon opening the door, they found two bodies on the floor in the living room and in the attic badly decaying.

The bodies of the women were hid in and around Sowell’s home. Sowell’s backyard was the starting point of the investigation. In October 2009, investigators dug up the remains of five of the 11 women Sowell killed (Kennedy, H. 2009) by strangling them. These five women’s ages ranged from age 25 to 52. It was if the crime scene was plucked out of a movie such as Silence of the Lambs, by the way the bodies were stored surrounding the offender.

Frazier claimed that she stopped living in Sowell’s home in 2007, but in a published article she is said to have been living there until 2008. Another article quotes a friend of Frazier’s stating that Frazier stopped hanging around the house in 2008. If this is the case, she knew about the bodies’ due to the location and harsh smells coming from the home.

Kennedy (2009) reports, that the rotting bodies were found in upstairs bedrooms, the living room, a crawl space, a shallow grave in the backyard and in another grave in the basement with investigators desperately tried to identify the bodies of six women found in various stages of decomposition and DNA testing was missed (Associated Press, 2011). Four were buried in the back yard, and a human skull was found in a bucket inside the home.

Sowell chose to strangle his victims with a string, cord or wire and at least one was strangled by hand. All of the victims were black which is typical for them to be due to the fact that most killers kill within their own race. He was a member of an online dating service, where he stated that he was a “master” looking for a submissive person to “train” This means that he was a power freak and needed to be in control.

He was located and arrested two days later as a suspect in the murders of eleven women whose bodies were discovered at his home. Sowell faces 85 counts related to those deaths including rape, murder, and kidnapping. Ten of theses counts were for the rape of a 34 year old woman, which also took place at Sowell’s home. The cold case unit is reviewing roughly 75 unsolved murders that occurred during the time Sowell lived in Cleveland and East Cleveland to see if there are any connections. Sowell will have a jury trial due the plea of not guilty by reason of insanity and could face the death penalty (Associated Press, 2011).

Kennedy, H., Ohio rapist Anthony Sowell lived in rotting bodies of women he strangled, say Cleveland police. Daily News. November 02, 2009. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.
Associated Press., Jury selection resumes Wednesday in Sowell trial. Jun 21, 2011. Retrieved on June 23, 2011.

At the time of this writing, Sowell is on trial for the murder of eleven women. He is innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.

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