Jury in Anthony Sowell trial sees graphic photos

5:30 PM, Jul 8, 2011   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Jurors in the trial of a man charged with killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his property saw graphic crime-scene photos Friday, with repeated images of decomposing bodies strewn amid garbage.

Jurors visited the house of Anthony Sowell, 51, last week before testimony began at his murder trial.

Sowell blinked lightly in court and kept a steady look at a wide-screen-TV set as the photos shot by crime investigators were displayed without narration, adding an emotion-charged element to the trial.

Sowell has pleaded not guilty and could face the death penalty if convicted.

The bodies, almost unrecognizable from decomposition, emerge in the photos from under sheets or clothing items - an elbow here, perhaps a skull there and buttocks and two legs from an otherwise covered body sprawled across the floor amid filth and routine household items.

In one scene, an investigator, wearing a surgical mask, booties and white hazmat outfit, crouches over a knee-high pile of debris, reaching toward a body apparently encased by garbage.

In the backyard, photos show investigators standing in a shallow grave, eventually lifting what apparently was a plastic-encased body. Five bodies were found buried in the yard, and the remains of the others, including a skull, were found inside the house.

In between the graphic images, there were moments showing routine police work, including a photo of the search warrant and a numbered yellow marker alongside a red stain on the wall.

Some in the courtroom diverted their eyes, but Sowell kept a steady gaze on the screen, located several steps away but close enough that light reflected off his cheeks.

"You were pretty busy that night," prosecutor Richard Bombik asked the witness who identified the photos, Cleveland Det. Kristine Rayburn.

"Yes," she responded.

The scene continued for more than an hour, with Bombik pausing in between photo groups to ask Rayburn to identify each.

The photos were taken over a period of days, with the first Oct. 29, 2009, as police searching for Sowell on a sex-assault complaint found the initial bodies and the crime scene began to unfold.

Krista Pekarski, a pathologist who is one of more than 20 coroner employees on the trial witness list, performed six autopsies and testified first about the death of Telacia Fortson, 31, who disappeared in June 2009.

Fortson was found naked from the waist down and with a piece of cloth around her neck. Her body was found in a third-floor bedroom.

She was strangled in a fashion that meant she would have lost consciousness in 10 seconds to 30 seconds, Pekarski testified.

Bombik asked how much longer it would have taken to kill someone that way.

"An additional three to five minutes," Pekarski responded.
Underscoring the time, Bombik asked, "It takes that long?"

"Yes," she said.

The women disappeared one by one, starting in October 2007, with the last one vanishing in September 2009.

Prosecutors said the women, many struggling with drug addictions and troubled lives, were lured with liquor and crack cocaine.


By THOMAS J. SHEERAN Associated Press

The Associated Press

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