Jury convicts Anthony Sowell in 11 murders

6:44 PM, Jul 22, 2011   |    comments
  • Leshanda Long
  • Michelle Mason
  • Amelda Hunter
  • Kim Yvette Smith; Photo courtesy: The Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • Diane Turner
  • Tonia Carmichael
  • Nancy Cobbs
  • Telacia Fortson
  • Tishana Culver
  • Crystal Dozier
  • Janice Webb
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CLEVELAND --  A jury convicted Anthony Sowell in the aggravated murders of 11 women whose remains were found in and around his Imperial Avenue home.

The jury also convicted Sowell on kidnapping and abuse of a corpse charges for each victim and determined the crimes were committed with a sexual motivation.

The first verdict read convicted Sowell in the murder of Tonia Carmichael. Once the guilty verdict was read, deputies handcuffed Sowell while Carmichael's family members embraced.

The jury also convicted Sowell of aggravated murder in the deaths of Nancy Cobbs, Telacia Forton, Tishana Culver, Crystal Dozier, Amelda Hunter, Leshanda Long,  Kim Yvette Smith, Michelle Mason, Diane Turner, and Janice Webb.

It took more than a hour to read the entire verdict encompassing more than 80 charges.

The victims began disappearing in 2007 lured to Sowell's home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police found the first bodies in the fall of 2009. The victims had been strangled using a variety of items .

The conviction on aggravated murder makes Sowell eligible for the death penalty. The same jury will hear a new case before deliberating once again to decide whether he should be sent to prison for life or put to death. The penalty phase of the trial will begin on August 1.

Sowell was also convicted of rape, attempted murder, kidnapping and felonious assault in attacks on two other women who survived. He was convicted of attempted murder, attempted rape, kidnapping and felonious assault in an attack on a third woman who also survived.

During the trial, several women gave grueling testimony of , telling the court how they had managed to escape. One woman, who said she was brutally raped by Sowell, testified that she had seen a headless body in his home.

Jurors deliberated 15 hours over the course of three days before reaching their verdict.  Most avoided looking at Sowell while the verdict was read focusing their attention intead on Judge Ambrose.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson offered the following written statement following the verdict: "My hope is that this verdict brings the family and friends of the victims closure andsome measure of peace. Today marks the end of their wait for justice."

Police Chief Michael McGrath issued his own written release commending the work of his homcide detectives, police officers, and prosecutors.  McGrath also extended the "sincerest condolences to the families of the victims."

Below is information on each of the victims' cases and the circumstances of their deaths.

- Crystal Dozier, 38, was buried in the backyard in plastic sheets, nude from the waist down. She was strangled with a knotted cloth. Her hands were bound at the wrist above her head, and her ankles were tied with cable wire. Dozier was last seen in October 2007.
- Tishanna Catherine Culver, 29, was strangled and wrapped in black plastic bags in a third-floor crawl space. Part of her neck bone was fractured, and her wrists were bound with a knotted rope. Culver lived a few houses away from Sowell and was last seen by her family in June 2008.
- Leshanda Long's skull was found wrapped in paper in a bucket in the basement. The rest of her body has not been recovered. She was last seen in August 2008.
- Michelle Mason, 44, was strangled with a cloth with an interwoven hoop earring and buried in the yard in a black plastic bag and carpet padding. She lived near Sowell's neighborhood and disappeared on Oct. 4, 2008.
- Tonia Carmichael, 52, was strangled with an electrical charger for a cell phone or camera. Her body was buried in the yard in clear plastic, alongside three small paper bags and a manila envelope containing mud and possible human bones. Carmichael, of Warrensville Heights, was last seen on Nov. 10, 2008.
- Kim Yvette Smith, 43, was buried in the backyard in black and clear plastic bags, her ankles and wrists tied with cloth, naked from the waist down. She died of undetermined homicidal violence. Smith, of Cleveland, disappeared on Jan. 1, 2009.
- Amelda Hunter, 46, was strangled with a shoulder strap of a bag or briefcase and buried in the yard in plastic garbage bags, nude from the waist down. Hunter, of Cleveland, vanished on April 18, 2009.
- Nancy Cobbs, 43, was found on the third floor, strangled with a rope and cloth ligature and wrapped in black plastic and a cloth comforter. Her wrists were bound with rope. Cobbs, of Cleveland, had a history of drug abuse and disappeared on April 28, 2009.
- Telacia Fortson, 31, was found nude from the waist down in a third-floor bedroom, strangled with a cloth ligature. A kitchen knife was found near her body. Fortson, of East Cleveland, disappeared in June 2009.
- Janice Denise Webb, 48, was strangled with a green belt and found nude in the basement in a plastic bag beneath a mound of dirt. Her wrists were bound with shoe laces. Webb disappeared on June 3, 2009.
- Diane Turner, 38, found in a black plastic bag in a third-floor bedroom, dead of undetermined homicidal violence. Turner, of Cleveland, had been missing since September 2009.
Source: Cuyahoga County Coroner's office, AP Research.


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