Serial killer to face death penalty as jury recommends his sentence

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Serial killer, Anthony Sowell is to face a death sentence after a jury in his murder case recommended death penalty in what many saw as the worse crime ever to be committed in the state. The case involved the killing of 11 women with their bodies mutilated and hidden in his residence.

Cleveland jury on Wednesday recommended that the convicted serial killer be sentenced to death.

Sowell, 51, has been on trial for the murder of 11 women and the assault of four other women. The bodies of the women were found on and around his property after police raided his home in order to arrest him for rape and assault.

Testimony began with a description of the body of Telacia Fortson, one of the first women found in a room off of Sowell’s bedroom.

Fortson’s death was ruled “asphyxia by cervical compression due to ligature strangulation,” according to testimony by Dr. Krista Pekarski, a forensic pathologist.

Pekarski said that such a strangulation can render a victim unconscious in 10 to 30 seconds and cause death in as little as three minutes.

Three of the six victims she examined died this way, while the others were ruled “homicidal violence — types or type unknown.”

A woman had told authorities in December that a man now accused of killing 11 women had beaten her and tried to rape her, and police and prosecutors are giving conflicting explanations for why a case was abandoned that could have led them months earlier to the bodies scattered around the suspect’s stench-filled house.

The woman’s complaint, nearly 10 months before police started finding bodies in Anthony Sowell’s home, adds to the questions about whether law enforcement, neighbors and victims did enough to catch a suspected serial killer. Five of the victims disappeared after the complaint was filed.

The woman had scratches around her neck and was bleeding from a deep gash in her thumb when she flagged down police near Sowell’s home on Dec. 8, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.

Police said they found what appeared to be blood on a tissue in the driveway and footprints in the snow indicating a possible struggle.

The report shows that police went into the house and to a third-floor landing, where they saw a trash can containing broken glass, a sweater, pink sweat pants and panties.

Anthony Sowell

They knocked on the door of a third-floor apartment, Sowell answered and they arrested him. They saw drops of blood inside the house and scratch marks on Sowell’s face.

The jurors decided that “the aggravated circumstances outweighed the mitigating factors” on all 11 murder counts against Sowell. If he had been found guilty on just one count he would have been eligible for the death penalty.

Sowell, 51, was convicted by the same jury of killing 11 women, whose decomposing bodies were found around his home in 2009, when police attempted to arrest him for rape and assault.

Handcuffed and wearing an orange jumpsuit, the ex-Marine stood emotionless as the verdicts were read. The courtroom was filled with family members of the victims. Some cried openly. Others showed little or no emotion.

As Sowell left the courtroom, he nodded his head slightly in the direction of the family members. Once he was gone and the jurors dismissed, family members broke out in applause, hugged the prosecutors and cried some more.

Prosecutor Rick Bombik told jurors he never intended to allow Sowell to plead and receive life in prison.

“In the history of this town … there is nothing to compare to this crime.” prosecutor Rick Bombik told reporters. “This was a story that had to be told.”

After the verdict, jury members spoke to reporters but asked that their names not be used.

When asked if Sowell’s testimony on the stand had any effect on their decision Juror 9 said: “It made it worse.”

“He should have remained silent,” added Juror 12, the jury’s foreperson.

The juror also told reporters, “He gave us a lot of eye contact which was unwarranted. I was offended. He winked at me.”

Jurors also said they had the “living” pictures of the 11 victims up during their deliberations, rather than the crime scene or morgue photos, because they wanted — in the words of one of the panel members — to “respect these beautiful women.”

One of Sowell’s surviving victims Vanessa Gay, 37 sat with reporters as the jurors were questioned and wept as they thanked her for testifying.

“She was very profound to me. The testimony spoke to all of us,” the foreperson told Gay.

“I want to thank each one of you for seeing me as a person and not just as what happened to me,” Gay responded.

“You didn’t deserve that. I felt your pain. I cried for you,” the foreperson added.

All of the jurors agreed that they followed the law and felt resigned to their decision to recommend death. Only one juror spoke of feeling any sympathy for Sowell. “I had tears for Anthony Sowell. He is a person,”

Ohio currently has 152 people on death row since re-establishing the death penalty in 1999. The average time from sentencing to execution is 14 years, 6 months.

Judge Dick Ambrose will sentence Sowell this Friday. He can still set aside the death penalty recommendation and sentence Sowell to life in prison. The jury had requested to be present at the time of sentencing.

The defense called no witnesses in the case, but criticized the state’s handling of the crime scene investigation and some of the women who testified against Sowell.

The murder victims were Diane Turner, Telacia Fortson, Janice Webb, Nancy Cobbs, Tonia Carmichael, Tishana Culver, Leshanda Long, Amelda Hunter, Michelle Mason, Crystal Dozier and Kim Smith.

Jurors deliberated for about 15 hours before reaching a verdict.

source: OON News and Reuters