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No bail in Cleveland multiple murder case

Judge cites 'macabre nature' of slayings in denying bond to Anthony Sowell, whose home contained 10 bodies and a severed head. Police are preparing to tear down the walls in search of more remains.

November 05, 2009|P.J. Huffstutter

A registered sex offender whose Cleveland residence contained the remains of 10 bodies and a human skull stored in a bucket was ordered held without bond Wednesday as police prepared to tear down the walls of his home in search of more bodies.

At the bond hearing, Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Brian Murphy told the court that Anthony Sowell, 50, could face the death penalty if convicted of the killings and called him "an incredibly dangerous threat to the public."

Kathleen DeMetz, Sowell's court-appointed defense attorney, argued that he should be granted bond because of medical concerns. Sowell has a pacemaker because of a heart condition, she said.

Judge Ronald Adrine denied bail because of the "macabre nature" of the killings.

Sowell so far has been charged with five counts of aggravated murder in what is being called one of the Midwest's most disturbing serial killer cases.

Even Sowell's attorney acknowledged the sensational nature of the case.

"I've been a public defender for 29 years and a lawyer for 32 years, and I've never had a case like this," DeMetz said after the court hearing. "Cleveland has never had a case like this."

Prosecutors said they expected more charges to be filed in the coming weeks against the unemployed Cleveland resident.

"We are waiting on the coroner's ruling of the manner of death on the remaining bodies and remains found at the property" before pursuing additional charges, said Ryan Miday, a spokesman for the county prosecutor's office.

In addition to the murder counts, Sowell has been charged with rape, felonious assault and kidnapping in connection with an alleged attack against a woman in his home on Sept. 22.

Sowell moved into the duplex's upstairs unit in 2005. He had spent the previous 15 years in state prison in a case where authorities said he lured a 21-year-old woman into his home, then choked and repeatedly raped her, according to the county prosecutor's office. He pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted rape in that case, according to the prosecutor's office.

Last week, when police arrived at Sowell's house to arrest him for the alleged September attack, investigators discovered the bodies of two women lying on the living room floor.

As the days passed, more bodies were discovered. One was in a freshly dug grave underneath a set of stairs in the backyard. Two more were crammed in a crawl space inside the house. The sixth was in a shallow grave in the basement.

Many were decayed beyond recognition. The Cuyahoga County coroner's office has ruled that five of the six women were strangled.

On Tuesday, police said they had located four more bodies buried in the backyard and a skull wrapped in either paper or plastic inside a bucket in the basement.

The coroner's office Wednesday said the skull belonged to someone whose body investigators had not located.

Authorities on Wednesday also identified one of the victims as Tonia Carmichael, 52, a woman who family members say disappeared a year ago, according to the Associated Press.

She is the first victim to be identified.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath told the Associated Press that her body had been buried in Sowell's backyard and that she appeared to have been strangled.

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p.j.huffstutter@latimes.com

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