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Witness: Anthony Sowell not mentally ill

12:46 PM, Aug 9, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The actions of a man who killed 11 women and dumped their remains around his property reflect methodical sexual sadism, not mental illness, a witness testified Tuesday as the prosecution pressed its case for the death penalty.

Dr. James Knoll was called to testify to counter a defense claim that Anthony Sowell, 51, is psychotic and should have his life spared.

Knoll said the way the victims were tied up, choked and strangled reflected a common theme in sexual sadism - controlling helpless victims. The intent of carefully binding the victims and choking them was complete domination, Knoll testified.

The same jury that convicted Sowell last month must decide whether to recommend the death penalty or life in prison without chance of parole. Sentencing deliberations begin after the final state rebuttal witnesses and closing statements.

Dr. George Woods, an expert hired by the defense, testified last week that Sowell suffers from several mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder from abuse he sustained during childhood. Sowell grew up in a family that had a history of physical abuse that went back for generations, Woods and others have testified.

Knoll, who reviewed Woods' findings, challenged the conclusions and said faking mental illness hadn't been ruled out.

Sowell claimed in a videotaped police interrogation that he heard voices inside his brain but Knoll said that could have been faked because Sowell's responses to questions about it were vague and evasive, typical signs of faking.

Knoll recapped the highlights of Sowell's crimes - tying up victims, choking them, wrapping the bodies in bags, hiding some and burying others - and said that behavior reflected concentration and attention, not a sudden loss of control.

"This takes some purposeful, deliberate action," he testified. "This isn't something that can be done haphazardly."

Under cross-examination, Knoll testified that he based his findings on a review of the defense mental-health report and not his own evaluation of Sowell.

Police said that beginning in 2007, Sowell lured women to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police began finding the remains, including a skull, just before Halloween 2009 after officers went to investigate a woman's report that she had been raped there.

Many of the victims had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. They were put in garbage bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in various parts of the house and backyard.

The defense didn't call witnesses during the trial. Sowell took the stand in an unsworn statement on Monday and apologized, saying, "It's not typical of me. I don't know what happened. I can't explain it."

The prosecution wasn't allowed to cross-examine Sowell, leaving unspoken the question of why he killed the 11 women and attacked three other women who survived and testified against him.

 

By THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press

The Associated Press

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