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Mar 10 11 2:31 PM
By MEGHAN BARRASSOCIATED PRESS
In this photo taken Friday, March 4, 2011, shows Mary Ann Prater holding a photograph of her daughter, Mary Thomas in Cleveland. Joseph Harwell was indicted on charges of raping and killing 27-year-old Mary Thomas in 1989 and 33-year-old Tondilear Harge in 1996, said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak) CLEVELAND -- The bodies could have been buried anywhere.
In the garbage bin next to his house, which occasionally reeked with the smell of something rotting inside. In the bowels of a boarded-up house down the block. Beneath a pile of debris in an overgrown, vacant lot.
There are many places to hide a body in East Cleveland - a crime-ridden neighborhood where a man once lived among the corpses of 11 women for months and nobody noticed.
Ever since those bodies were found stashed throughout Anthony Sowell's home, investigators have wondered: Did he bury more bodies nearby?
"I think it was on everyone's mind," says Richard Bell, one of the city's chief prosecutors and director of Cuyahoga County's cold-case unit. "We were not only finding bodies in his attic, but there were bodies out in the yard. The crew had to stay out there extensively, for days and days, wondering if they had dug deep enough."
County Prosecutor Bill Mason said there was nothing to do but reopen the cases of the old, unsolved murders of women who resembled the victims found in Sowell's house: poor, drug-addicted black women.
"Our approach to all of this was to find more Sowell victims," Mason says. "Because we believed there were more."
Mason's cold-case team pulled the files of 75 unsolved homicides from within a three-mile radius of the two homes on the east side of town where Sowell - who has pleaded not guilty to killing the women - had lived since the 1980s. They dusted off old paperwork, pored over the reports and searched for any biological evidence that might still be tested for DNA.
Nicknamed the "Sowell surge," the project was meant to assuage the fears of a city still shaken by the violent deaths of so many women.
"What we didn't expect to find," Bell says, "was another serial murderer."
The evidence is buried in storage rooms all over the city, stuffed in boxes and bags and manila envelopes.
At police headquarters, the cluttered property rooms are overflowing with hundreds of drawers and shelves, each one stuffed with pieces of a crime: guns, metal cages, lawn rakes, egg crates, battered car seats, an old car muffler.
"This ain't like CSI, where everything you need is in a pretty white box," says Michael Beaman, one of the investigators.
The investigators rely on a stack of red leather-bound books dating back to 1911 that list each item and where it is stored. Evidence for a single case could be scattered among several storage facilities on opposite ends of town, from a suburban police precinct to walk-in freezers at the coroner's office.
Retired homicide detectives in their 50s and 60s make up most of this cold-case team, along with a couple of scientists from the coroner's office, a paralegal and a prosecutor. Paid with soon-to-end federal grant money, they've investigated old cases since 2006, focusing primarily on unsolved rapes and sexual assaults - the crimes that yield the greatest potential for DNA evidence. Until the Sowell Surge, they had filed 13 indictments in unsolved cases.
The team is scattered among several buildings but investigators mostly work in a cramped office in the depths of police headquarters, alongside current-duty investigators with active cases.
"When you look back at the number of unsolved homicides in Cuyahoga County, you know, there's a lot on the shelf," said Mike O'Malley, the chief investigator. "Now is an opportunity with the new technology to maybe solve some of those cases."
Only female victims found nude or partially clothed were considered for the surge project. If there was no record of evidence that might contain DNA, the case was put back in the filing cabinet.
"From there, the investigators have to go out and find the stuff," Bell says. "And that's when we ran into some difficulty."
Some of the evidence listed in police and autopsy reports for the surge cases had been lost or damaged over the years. Evidence from crimes committed before the advent of DNA technology in the 1980s was often not refrigerated, increasing the likelihood of damage, says Dr. Mohammad Tahir, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Regional Forensic Science Laboratory.
"Once biological material leaves the body, degradation starts," Tahir says. "The higher the temperature, the faster the degradation."
Once biological material reaches the coroner's office, it can take a month or longer to produce a DNA profile, which is then submitted to CODIS, the FBI's national database of DNA profiles from convicted offenders.
One day in November, a year after the bodies were found in Sowell's home, O'Malley walked into Bell's office and said there was a DNA hit in one of the surge cases: Mary Thomas, 27, who was strangled and beaten to death in 1989.
But the name on the lab report was not Anthony Sowell.
It was Joseph Harwell, who pleaded guilty to fatally strangling a woman near Columbus in 1997 and is currently serving 15 years to life at a prison in Mansfield, an hour south of Cleveland. Harwell, 50, has a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s, including a conviction for felonious assault in 1989, when he attempted to strangle another woman, who survived.
Harwell had already shown up once before on the cold-case radar. In 2008 - before any bodies were found in Sowell's home - investigators had traced Harwell's DNA to yet another woman killed near that East Cleveland neighborhood.
Tondilear Harge, 33, was found dead in September 1996 in a lot overgrown which shrubbery, blocks from where Harwell lived. The abandoned building where Thomas was killed seven years earlier was but 1.5 miles from Harwell's home. Sowell's home was nearby.
Prosecutors say Sowell, 51, lured vulnerable women to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave as they investigated a woman's report that she had been raped there. For months, the stench of death wafted down the street where Sowell lived, but it was blamed on a sausage factory next door.
Investigators say there's no evidence that Sowell and Harwell even knew each other. What they had in common was jail time for attacking a woman before they were accused of killing anyone. Investigators say they also shared a desire to rape and kill poor, drug-addicted black women.
"Can you give me the crime-scene pictures of this murder?"
The room is silent as photographs flash on the projector screen. It is Mary Thomas, lying face-down in the abandoned building, her body tangled in a pile of garbage, a red cord tied around her neck. She was three months' pregnant when she died.
"This is the one where we're having problems with the ligature," Bell says. "The red ribbon."
Next up on the screen are photographs of Harge, face up, half-naked, in a wooded lot near a demolished garage. Her death was ruled a homicide "type undetermined," and she remained nameless, unidentified for a month after she was killed.
It is mid-January, and the DNA hit has spurred the cold-case team to re-investigate the murders of these two women. Though their deaths were nearly a decade apart, Thomas and Harge lived and died in similar fashion - roaming the streets of East Cleveland, high on crack, looking for their next hit. They are among the pool of drug addicts who have been turning up dead in this neighborhood since the crack epidemic swept through here in the 1980s.
"Crack destroyed a lot of places," Beaman says, "and East Cleveland was one of them."
There is a sense of anger in the black community that the Sowell victims were neglected by police - that their disappearances were not taken seriously - simply because most of them were hooked on drugs. In recent months, the victims' families have filed a flurry of wrongful death lawsuits accusing the city's law enforcement agencies of what amounts to a complete systemic failure.
O'Malley won't get into any of that controversy.
"We have to concentrate on what we do," he says. "All we can do is come back and say, 20 years later, we solved this case."
Re-tracing old steps, the cold-case investigators knocked on doors in East Cleveland, tracking down family members who'd moved often over the years. They encountered such obstacles as the disappearance of the red cord used to strangle Thomas. It has vanished from a police storage facility and cannot be found.
Witnesses have vanished, too. And the ones still around are sometimes unreliable because they are addicted to drugs themselves.
"It's not just a matter of getting a (DNA) hit," O'Malley says. "You've got to kind of separate the wheat from the chaff - what's true and what's not."
As of early March, 46 of the original surge cases remain active. Most of them await further testing at the coroner's office. So far, Thomas is the only victim to produce a DNA hit.
On Tuesday, more than a year after the Sowell surge began, the prosecutor's office charged Harwell with six counts of aggravated murder, two counts of rape and six counts of kidnapping in the deaths of Thomas and Harge. The multiple counts for each death came with different legal specifications.
Harwell does not yet have a lawyer.
Mary Ann Prater has not heard the name of her deceased daughter, Mary Thomas, spoken aloud in a long time. She has boxed away the old photographs and memories, trying to move on. Sometimes it feels like Thomas died only yesterday.
The worst day of Prater's life was March 28, 1989, when she got home from her job as a hospital nurse and turned on the evening news to hear of a young woman killed a few blocks away. It dawned on her, as the broadcaster described the dead woman's clothing, that her daughter had worn that very outfit hours earlier, as she smiled, braiding a friend's hair into cornrows, and waved goodbye to her mother.
Prater asked a friend that night to drive her to the morgue.
"I was hoping it wouldn't be her, but you know, I just had a feeling it was," she says.
Looking at the body, she allowed herself to think at first that this could not be her daughter - that there was still hope - not this girl with the darkened, ash-colored skin and that red cord wrapped around her neck.
For a long time afterward, Prater feared the killer would come after her. She moved back to St. Louis, her hometown, and stayed there for 10 years.
"I was so paranoid," she says. "I didn't want nobody coming to my house."
When bodies were being carried out of Sowell's house, Prater called East Cleveland police and asked if they thought her daughter's death might be connected to Sowell. They said no. But she held out hope that police might find the person who did it.
So did Yolanda Cooke-Gillis, Harge's sister-in-law, who helped raise Harge's children after she died.
"She was just fun and outgoing and so warm," Cooke-Gillis says. "And funny. And she always made you laugh."
All these years later, she still visits the cemetery on Harge's birthday to light candles and say a prayer.
"But that's not gonna bring her back," she says, wiping tears from her eyes. "That's not gonna bring her back."
Two weeks ago, the youngest of the four children that Thomas left behind was killed in a shooting at the night club where he worked. Prater says he was an innocent bystander, in the wrong place at the wrong time. His death reopened old wounds that the family still hasn't healed from.
"I was telling my daughter today, history repeats itself," Prater says. "And when do it stop? When do it stop?"
Mar 10 11 2:57 PM
Joseph Harwell, 50, was indicted Tuesday on multiple counts of aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping in connection with the deaths of 27-year old Mary Thomas in 1989 and 33-year-old Tondilear Harge in 1996.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said his office will seek the death penalty for Harwell, who is serving 15 years to life in prison for killing Teresa Vinson in Columbus in 1997. He is eligible for parole next year.
Mason's cold case unit, which has been investigating unsolved rapes and murders since 1996, took on a special project on Cleveland's East side in November 2009, after the remains of 11 women were discovered at Sowell's Imperial Avenue home.
Sowell, 51, is charged with the aggravated murder of the women and attacks on three others. His trial is scheduled for June 6, and he faces the death penalty if convicted.
Certain that Sowell had other victims, Mason ordered his investigators to pull 75 unsolved homicides of women whose bodies were found within 3 1/2 miles of the two houses -- one on Page Avenue in East Cleveland -- where Sowell had lived.
Of that batch, 46 cases yielded DNA evidence, though the DNA was too degraded to test in about a dozen of those, Mason said. Thirty of them are still awaiting analysis.
In November, the cold case squad got a hit -- but it wasn't what Mason expected.
DNA discovered on Thomas did not belong to Sowell, but to Harwell. The team already had flagged the convicted killer in 2008 after matching his DNA to evidence found while revisiting Harge's cold case.
Harge's case was not a part of the investigation spurred by the Imperial Avenue slayings. Her body was found in a wooded area between East 86th and East 87th Streets, farther away from Sowell's residences. Harge's cause of death was listed as undetermined.
Thomas was found March 28, 1989, by two East Ohio Gas men working in an alleyway on First Avenue in East Cleveland. She was four months pregnant when she had been strangled with a cord and beaten to death, the coroner ruled.
Both women were sexually assaulted, Mason said.
The timeline of Harwell's life, Mason said, reveals a man who has divided his time between prison and violence attacks against women.
Harwell's criminal history began in the late 1970s with theft, vandalism and aggravated robbery convictions. In 1989, after Thomas was found dead, Harwell was convicted of felonious assault for attempting to strangle a woman who survived the attack. He was in prison until his parole in 1996. Within five months, Harge's body was found, and Harwell was still at large.
He then went to Columbus, where he killed Vinson. Harwell was apprehended and pleaded guilty.
Harwell is expected to be brought back from the Richland Correctional Institution in the next two weeks for an arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, Mason said.
The cold case unit has reviewed 438 cases in the past five years, with 149 submitted for DNA analysis, Mason said. Forty-eight have yielded DNA profiles, and 15 have matched with criminals already in the system.
Mason said his cold case investigators will continue combing through the evidence they have yet to test in search for links to Sowell -- or possibly Harwell.
Mason said he still believes the team will find evidence that Sowell's handiwork was not limited to his Imperial Avenue home.
"It just seems so unlikely that everybody he killed, he stuffed in that house, when in that same neighborhood, women are missing who would fit the prototype of his victims," Mason said. "I believe they're out there. We just haven't discovered them. And who knows? We still have 30 cases that could come back his way."
Mar 12 11 9:55 AM
By Meghan Barr
Accused: Eleven bodies were found at the home of Anthony Sowell
A cold-case team of detectives hunting more victims of an alleged multiple killer have found a DNA link to a second serial murderer.
The team stumbled on the new suspect as they re-examined the case of Anthony Sowell who police say buried 11 women's bodies at his home in East Cleveland, Ohio.
They had been looking at unsolved murders of his typical victims - black drug addicts - close to where he lived when they made the startling breakthrough.
There was a DNA hit in the case of 27-year-old Mary Thomas who was strangled and beaten to death in 1989, but the name on the lab report was not that of Sowell.
It was Joseph Harwell who admitted strangling a woman near Columbus in 1997 and is currently serving 15 years to life at a prison just an hour south of Cleveland.
His name had already shown up once before on the cold-case radar.
In 2008 - before any bodies were found in Sowell's home - investigators had traced Harwell's DNA to yet another woman killed near that crime-ridden East Cleveland neighbourhood.
Detectives would never have found Harwell if the team had not been put together because police feared Sowell had buried more victims.
Richard Bell, one of the city's chief prosecutors and director of Cuyahoga County's cold-case unit said: 'I think it was on everyone's mind, we were not only finding bodies in his attic, but there were bodies out in the yard.
House of death: Alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell lived in this home in East Cleveland
'The crew had to stay out there extensively, for days and days, wondering if they had dug deep enough.'
The team pulled the files of 75 unsolved homicides from within a three-mile radius of the two homes on the east side of town where Sowell - who has pleaded not guilty to killing the women - had lived since the 1980s.
They dusted off old paperwork, pored over the reports and searched for any biological evidence that might still be tested for DNA.
Nicknamed the Sowell Surge, the project was meant to calm the fears of a city still shaken by the violent deaths of so many women.
Bell said: 'What we didn't expect to find was another serial murderer.'
Bodies: Police claim Anthony Sowell buried his victims in the yard of his home Retired homicide detectives in their 50s and 60s make up most of the cold-case team, along with a couple of scientists from the coroner's office, a paralegal and a prosecutor.
They've investigated old cases since 2006, focusing primarily on unsolved rapes and sexual assaults - the crimes that yield the greatest potential for DNA evidence.
Until the Sowell Surge, they had filed 13 indictments in unsolved cases.
The team is scattered among several buildings, but investigators mostly work in a cramped office in the depths of police headquarters, alongside current-duty investigators with active cases.
'When you look back at the number of unsolved homicides in Cuyahoga County, you know, there's a lot on the shelf, ' said Mike O'Malley, the chief investigator.
Accused: Joseph Harwell, in jail for strangling to death a woman, was linked to two other killings through DNA
'This ain't like CSI, where everything you need is in a pretty white box,'says Michael Beaman, one of the investigators.
They rely on a stack of red leather-bound books dating back to 1911 that list each item and where it is stored.
Evidence for a single case could be scattered among several storage facilities on opposite ends of town, from a suburban police precinct to walk-in freezers at the coroner's office.
The team struck lucky last November when DNA linked Harwell to Tondilear Harge, 33, who was found dead in September 1996 in a lot overgrown which shrubbery, blocks from where Harwell lived.
The abandoned building where Thomas was killed seven years earlier was just 1.5 miles from Harwell's home. Sowell's home was nearby.
Harwell, 50, has a long criminal history dating back to the 1970s, including a conviction for assault in 1989, when he attempted to strangle another woman, who survived.
Investigators say there's no evidence that Sowell and Harwell even knew each other.What they had in common was jail time for attacking a woman before they were accused of killing anyone.
They claim they also shared a desire to rape and kill poor, drug-addicted black women.
Forty-six of the original Sowell Surge cases remain active. Most of them await further testing at the coroner's office.
So far, Thomas is the only victim to produce a DNA hit. More than a year after the surge began, the prosecutor's office has charged Harwell with six counts of aggravated murder, two counts of rape and six counts of kidnapping in the deaths of Thomas and Harge.
Mar 13 11 4:00 PM
Nancy Cobbs knew she hadn't always been the mother she wanted to be, so she tried to make up for it by being there for her grandchildren.
Cobbs doted on her five grandkids. She taught some of them to ride bikes and took them to the park. She cooked for them, and took them to doctor's appointments.
Life had taught Cobbs harsh lessons about lost time. She fell into the trap of drug addiction. Years she could have spent being a mother, she spent in prison instead.
She didn't want to miss the chance to watch her grandchildren grow up. But when she wasn't with her family, she struck up a friendship with a man from her neighborhood.
Cobbs and her friend sipped cans of beer from the corner store on the porch at her mother's house on Griffing Avenue in Cleveland -- three blocks north of Imperial Avenue. The man exchanged greetings with relatives and friends who visited the home. They knew him by face more than by name. They didn't view him as a danger.
It wasn't until after the remains of 11 women were found in a house on Imperial Avenue that they learned his full name -- Anthony Sowell.
Cobbs was one of 11 women found dead at Sowell's house in the fall of 2009. She had gone missing in April of that year. A grassroots force of family, friends and neighbors kicked in doors of abandoned houses in the area looking for her.
They never thought to look in Sowell's house. That's where her body was discovered six months later.
Before Cobbs, 44, developed an addiction to drugs or spent time behind bars, however, she was an active mother of three children. She worked -- factory, fast food and housekeeping jobs.
But somewhere along the way, her life unraveled. She went through a divorce and then the breakup of a longtime relationship. She got hooked on drugs and ran afoul of the law.
"After my mother and father separated, she just would be in the streets," said her youngest daughter, Audrey Williams.
After a break up, life went downhill
Nancy Cobbs was born in 1966 in Cleveland to Louvenia Cobbs and Lewis Congress. She was their only child.
Her parents were not married. The family lived in a house on Griffing Avenue. Cobbs attended Harvey Rice Middle School and John Hay High School. She never graduated from John Hay.
She dropped out after she became pregnant but later obtained a GED. She had a daughter, Kyana, and married the child's father, William Hunt. He joined the military. Cobbs stayed in Cleveland while he served. They had a second child, a boy they named William III.
But Cobbs and Hunt divorced within a few years. Her children from that marriage declined to be interviewed for this story. Her mother also declined an interview.
Cobbs later met Adam Williams at the old Mad Hatter night club at East 18th Street and Prospect Avenue in the early 80s. They struck up a relationship. They were together for nine years.
Williams said Cobbs used drugs early in the relationship. But he stopped using drugs after she became pregnant with their daughter Audrey, he said, and he started to look at ways to provide for the family.
"Nancy was a good person to the people who knew her, it's just the only person who she hurt and abused was herself," Adam Williams said.
In 1994, Adam Williams moved to Wichita, Kan., to go to a truck driving school. The whole family was to relocate there, he said, but Cobbs hit the streets and eventually ended up in jail.
"We just kind of drifted apart after that and she kept using," Adam Williams said.
Adam Williams said he provided for his daughter financially, but her grandmother took custody of her while Cobbs was in jail. He returned to Cleveland in the late 90s and now works as a driver here.
Audrey Williams, 23, said she and her mother were close. She said she was a "mama's girl" who never left her mother's side. Cobbs taught her how to bake cookies, make jewelry and decorate.
"My dad would try to get me to go on the road with him, but I always wanted to be around my mother," Audrey Williams said. "I went with her everywhere. I was the baby, and we were really close."
Cobbs was sentenced to three years in prison in 1996 for drug trafficking and possessing criminal tools. She served two years at the Ohio Reformatory for Women. Her maternal grandmother took custody of Audrey Williams and her siblings.
Audrey Williams rebelled and found her own trouble with the police.
"My father did his own thing," she said. "All of my friends had their moms, and I felt like nobody cared, so I did what I wanted to do."
She had her first child at the age of 13.
Audrey Williams visited her mother in prison but was angered by their estrangement. Still, she remained her mother's biggest advocate, even when other relatives gave up on her mom because of the chronic drug abuse.
"I never approved of it, and we used to get into fights because I wanted to see her better herself," Audrey Williams said. "She had a problem, but it wasn't to the point to where she was a junkie."
Cobbs went all out for kids' birthdays
Cobbs lived in a series of apartments in the city and at her mother's home after prison. She moved in with Audrey Williams in an apartment near Quincy Avenue in 2007 and helped care for her two grandchildren.
Cobbs was devoted to the children. She went all out on their birthdays, buying gifts and cooking, Audrey Williams recalled.
"I really didn't have to do anything," Audrey Williams said. "She would decorate the house and get everything together.
"She did everything she could to make sure my kids didn't miss out of having a Grandma."
But she also ran the streets.
The last time Audrey Williams said she saw her mother was in April of 2009. Cobbs had spent the day with her daughter and the kids but left her apartment that night. She said she would be back.
Cobbs didn't return.
The next day, Audrey Williams went to Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police to file a missing persons report. She said it wasn't like her mother to not call to let her know where she was. They talked everyday.
Audrey Williams made missing persons fliers at her children's day care and posted them on community boards, at corner stores and on telephone poles in the Buckeye neighborhood.
She said the flyers would always disappear a day or two later. She had suspicions her mother was trapped in a home.
"I would always come back a day or two later they would be gone," Audrey Williams said. "I wondered why someone would take them down."
During the summer before Cobbs body was discovered, she formed a search group with more than 30 of her friends and relatives. They broke down the doors of abandoned homes in the city in search of her mother.
They went into foreclosed and abandoned homes on streets including Griffing, Forest and Parkview avenues.
But they never looked on Imperial Avenue.
When they heard about bodies being found inside of Sowell's home in 2009, Audrey Williams and her sister Kyana Hunt went to get their DNA tested at the coroner's office. They found out their mother was dead.
The man who used to drink beer with her mother and sit on the porch had been charged with her murder.
"I never thought anything of him," Audrey Williams said. "I just used to say hi to this guy and had no idea what he was going to do."
Cobb's death caused Audrey Williams to reassess her own life. She has three young children. She knew she was headed down the same path as her mother.
So she decided to change course. She attends a cosmetology school in Cleveland Heights, and she said she wants to make sure her children have a stable parental presence.
She said she loved her mother and misses her everyday, but she doesn't want to become her.
"My grandma would tell me to slow down from what I was doing or that I would end up like my mother," she said. "When that stuff happened with her, it was really a wake up call."
Mar 13 11 4:11 PM
For a while, it appeared Leshanda Long had a chance at a normal life.
She was just 6 years old and living with her aunt after social workers took her away from her drug-addicted mother and too-often-absent father. She made good grades in school and had perfect attendance. She participated in the DARE drug education program. She was baptized at church and participated in children's programs.
Long also looked out for her siblings. She was the bossy one, relatives said. "She was very motherly with her brothers and sisters," said her aunt Caroline Long. "She was always strong-willed and sassy, but she didn't get into any trouble."
But it didn't last.
Long became pregnant by age 14, had three children before she was old enough to vote and was dead by 25. She was the youngest of 11 women found dead at Anthony Sowell's two-story, white frame house on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland.
Her family is unsure how she ended up in Sowell's lair. But investigators say he preyed on vulnerable women who lived on the margins of society, plying them with drugs before taking their lives.
Long fit the bill. Her life went wrong early on and she knew at a young age that if she didn't change she wouldn't live long. She foretold it in letters she wrote when she got in trouble.
"I can honestly say that at the rate I am going, I'll be dead before I am 18," Long wrote to former Cuyahoga County Juvenile Judge John W. Gallagher in October 2000.
Problems began in childhood
Long was born in 1984 to a mother addicted to crack cocaine and a father who didn't pay enough attention in her early years, according to relatives and court records Friends and relatives said in recent interviews that her problems were rooted in her troubled youth. Her mother, Jewell, popped in and out of the picture during her childhood.
Long's father, Jim Allen, assumed tacit responsibility for raising Long and her siblings because of their mother's transience. Allen lived with the children and his grandmother in a house on Folsom Avenue.
But in 1990, a social worker visited the house and found six children -- ages 1 to 13 -- home alone. Long was the third oldest. Allen's grandmother was on vacation in California. She had repeatedly asked the county to take custody of the children because their parents did not contribute to their care and she was too old to care for them, according to records.
A document that references the incident states the living conditions inside the home put the children at risk. The children went to foster care.
But within months, Jewell Long's younger sister stepped in and took custody of the six children. Caroline Long, who had two sons of her own, worked as a gas station attendant and at other odd jobs.
"That is what you are supposed to do for family," Caroline Long, 55, said in a recent interview. "In my heart, it wouldn't have been right if they all were separated."
Caroline Long tried to shield the children from their parents and their lifestyle. She moved the family to Lorain County. Long transferred from Iowa Maple Elementary in Cleveland to Lincoln Academy in Lorain.
For a while, things went well. But as Leshanda got older, her resentment over being separated from her parents surfaced.
Her aunt moved the family to Kokomo, Ind., because Caroline Long got a job at a nursing home there. She thought a new environment would give everyone a fresh start.
But Long resented the move and became defiant, her aunt said.
"It got to a point to where she would stay out and not let me know where she was," Caroline Long said. "With the other kids and with her, I couldn't let them misbehave like that because it was a bad example and the younger children would think it was OK to act like that too.
"She kept saying she wanted to be with her mother and father. So one day, I told her if her daddy wanted her back, she could go back home."
Long was 14 when she returned to Cleveland, and it wasn't long before she started to get into trouble. She initially lived with her grandmother and later with her father and stepmother. Relatives said she would leave home often to search for her mother in the streets.
"She and her brothers and sisters didn't have any structure when they were young; it was hard for Leshanda to adjust to that," her aunt said.
Within a year, Long made several trips to juvenile detention and became pregnant with her first child.
She also ran away from home on several occasions and was reported missing to police. By the age of 17, Long had three children but was deemed unfit to raise them. She also had a record -- among her offenses were stealing a pocket computer and a pit bull and kidnapping her children from relatives who had custody of them.
Janie Whitehead, a retired Ohio Department of Youth Services social worker, met Long while the girl was in detention. Long was plagued by her upbringing, Whitehead said.
"She never really had a handle on who she was," Whitehead said, "and the root of her troubles always went to her background."
Every time Long was ordered to detention she was "pregnant and ready to deliver," Whitehead said. Long gave birth to all three children while in detention.
Long had a big-time temper and always made herself the leader among her peers in detention, Whitehead said.
"If Leshanda liked you, she liked you," she said. "And if she didn't, well, she let you know it."
Long sought refuge in her own thoughts. She wrote about the pain she felt and what she wanted to do with her life, according to juvenile records. She wrote that she wanted a different life for herself and her children.
"When I go home, I plan to enroll in Cuyahoga Community College for a year or two so I can spend time with my children and family," she wrote in the fall of 2000. "Then I plan to transfer out of state to Spelman or Georgia Tech in Atlanta."
Long had the potential to go to college and be a success story, Whitehead said. Her writing was something that "could just grab you," Whitehead said.
"She had a skill, and if someone nurtured that, things could have been different," Whitehead added. "She always fought the people trying to help her, but she never realized she had so much more to give." The D.A.R.E certifcate given to Leshanda Long upon completion of the class.
Skull identifiedas LeShanda's
When Long became a legal adult, she was arrested several times. Relatives said they believe she abused marijuana and cocaine.
Her father and other relatives had custody of her children. Long got in trouble with police a few times for taking the children away from relatives after she visited them. She popped in and out of her family members' lives. Every now and then she called her siblings and cousins in Indiana. Long went missing in August 2008. Her family had reported her missing when she ran away twice as a child, but not when she became an adult.
In November 2009, investigators found a skull in a bucket at Sowell's house. DNA tests confirmed the skull was Long's. Coroner Frank Miller broke the news to the family. It was an end to a sad story that continues to haunt them.
Caroline Long's youngest son, Terry, said he believes Leshanda Long tried to fight off Sowell before she was killed. Terry Long, who works as an accountant in Cleveland, said he misses his cousin and that she was like a sister.
"Leshanda wasn't one to back down," he said. "We don't really know for sure, but with the way she was . . . we knew she gave him a good fight and it might be why all they found was her skull."
The last time Caroline Long talked to her niece was in 2008 during a phone conversation. Leshanda Long lamented that she had not heeded the lessons her aunt and others had tried to give her.
"She said, 'Auntie, I know if I would have listened to you, I would have been better off. I'm sorry for not listening.'
"I told her that it wasn't too late and that I loved her," Caroline Long said. "And that she had time to get it together."
Leshanda Long went missing a few months later.
Mar 13 11 4:25 PM
"My little mother hen," her mom, Florence Bray, said in a recent interview. She smiled at the memory.
As a girl, Dozier got a thrill from acting like a grown-up. She spent hours in the kitchen, learning from her mother how to season a roast, fry chicken or make a pot of beans.
And she loved getting dressed up in the frilly matching outfits that she and her sister wore. She might emerge from her room dolled up in a mismatched ensemble of hat, heels and long dress for a trip to church or the doctor's office.
"My sister was a prissy girl," said her younger sister, Annetta Bell, 38. "She liked to look cute."
But when she plunged into the ugly world of crack cocaine as a young teen, her life spun out of control and she developed an addiction that she'd never fully shake. Years later, she met a gruesome end on Imperial Avenue.
The mother of seven was 35 when she disappeared in 2007 -- the first of the 11 Imperial Avenue victims to go missing. Dozier hadn't been seen in 21/2 years when investigators dug up her body in 2009, by a fence in Anthony Sowell's back yard.
A pervasive pattern: men and drugs
The suspect in the serial killings wasn't unknown to Dozier, her family has learned. Friends told them that Dozier had sometimes accepted rides from Sowell, who lived close to her. He had been a shadowy presence in her life -- not a boyfriend but someone she occasionally partied with, relatives said. Someone who provided her with drugs, they said.
Men and drugs. The two had been a pervasive pattern in Dozier's life.
They took control of Dozier's life at an early age, and she never broke free, relatives said.
Dozier was born in 1971, the second-oldest of Eugene and Florence Dozier's four children. The young family lived for a time on Kinsman Road in then-stable Mount Pleasant, before foreclosures, crime and eventually the Imperial Avenue tragedy became signals of the neighborhood's collapse.
Dozier went to Alexander Hamilton Junior High School and attended John F. Kennedy High for a time.
Her mother, Bray, remembers getting a shock when she took 13-year-old Dozier to the pediatrician.
"Crystal has something to tell you," Bray recalled the doctor saying.
Dozier was pregnant. While still a child herself, she gave birth to a son. The relationship with the 17-year-old father didn't last long.
And at age 14 Dozier was pregnant again, this time by a 20-year-old man.
Bray, by then a divorcee raising four kids alone, said she was angry that older guys were preying on her teen daughter, and she battled them for control.
"We tried to move out of the area," Bray said. "We moved to East Cleveland."
But Dozier didn't want to be with her family. She moved in with the father of her second child.
"He coaxed her into running away. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep," Bray said. "I sat outside, I walked up and down the streets looking for my child. That's a scary, hurting feeling. I was a wreck. I didn't know where my child was, I didn't know if she was all right.
"She was afraid of him. After he won her over . . . he coaxed her into doing stuff, and she did it. He had total control over her."
Dozier and her boyfriend went on to have six children together. They married after having their second child in 1987, when a no-nonsense judge ordered them to do so.
"If you're going to keep making these kids, you're going to have to marry her," Bray remembers the female judge saying to the boyfriend.
Dozier would have been about 16 at the time.
'Not just one person's life, it's an entire family'
It was during that time in her life, Cuyahoga County social-service records indicate, that she became addicted to crack cocaine.
The man she married would go on to rack up a long list of arrests and charges. Between 1987 and 2006, he was arrested five times on charges ranging from drug abuse to grand theft and breaking and entering. Attempts to contact him were unsuccessful.
A social worker in 1987 described Dozier and her husband as unfit parents. In one document, she noted that Dozier's oldest child, Anthony, "has marks on his body from beatings."
Anthony Dozier, now 26, believes his mom was only 14 when she got hooked on crack. He and his siblings were taken from her custody at an early age. Dozier's mother took in the two oldest, Anthony and Antonia, and the five other kids entered the foster care system.
Several relatives said the only relationship Dozier seemed committed to was her stormy marriage.
"It was so many chances she had to walk away," Anthony Dozier told a reporter last year. "She didn't want to.
"That was my mother's problem -- she loved him to the point that whatever he asked her to do, she would do it, whether it was using drugs or anything. She just did it.
"Drugs ruin people's lives. It's not just one person's life, it's an entire family."
Crystal Dozier's first arrest came in 1997, when she was 25, for attempted possession of drugs. For the next six years, a string of arrests followed, with charges escalating from possession to theft and drug trafficking.
Her mother, Bray, served time in 1993 on a drug charge, which caused the two grandchildren she had taken in to be shuffled between the homes of other relatives until authorities stepped in and sent them to separate foster homes.
Bray said that for her and her daughter, drugs served as an escape. Bray said she was raped as a child by a relative and struggled with abusive family relationships all her life.
"Drugs and alcohol take you to a point where you're in another world. You ain't got to feel the pain and hurt that you feel every day," she said.
Bray said she was saddened to see her daughter get hooked on crack, but she understood how it could happen. Bray said she, too, wasted years chasing her next high, until she finally found the will to get sober.
"Drug addiction is a bad sucker," Bray said.
It's a blessing now to look in the refrigerator and the cabinet, she said, and have a choice of what she wants to eat instead of going hungry.Drug dependence has become something passed down by the generations, especially in Cleveland's low-income neighborhoods where youths grow up surrounded by physical, emotional and sexual trauma, said Mary Bazie, executive director of Hitchcock Center for Women. One of several treatment programs Dozier attended was at the center.
"It's not uncommon to have both mothers and daughters needing treatment," Bazie said.
'She had a habit, and that was it'
Dozier gave each of her seven children a name beginning with the letter A. She stayed in touch with her oldest two, but she never pulled it together and unified her family.
Her four youngest daughters ended up adopted by one family, while son Andre was adopted by another foster mother. He died at age 11 from complications from asthma, relatives said.
Feeling like a failure at mothering contributed to Dozier's depression, said her sister Annetta Bell.
"She didn't know how to deal with not having her kids around her," Bell said. "To find out her son had passed away, that really weighed heavily on her."
Dozier's daughter Antonia said the years she spent in foster care were miserable, yet she doesn't resent her mom.
"My mother was young," she said. "She went through a lot of things in her childhood on her own."
The 24-year-old medical assistant said in a 2010 interview that she loved her occasional visits with her mom, and she never perceived her mother as an addict.
"Everybody has a typical view of what a crack addict looks like," she said. "She didn't look like any of those things. She was what a mother was supposed to be -- loving, nurturing, caring.
"My mother, I honestly believe she was born to be a nurturer. Because she took anybody who was in her life, she took care of them. Anybody who met her loved her. Only thing bad about her that you could say was that she had a habit, and that was it."
But Dozier's drug habit affected all facets of her life. In the same way that she glided in and out of her kids' lives, Dozier missed court dates and frequently ended up violating probation.
There were times when it seemed Dozier had turned a corner and put the drug scene behind her. Family members said her relationship with the father of six of her children broke up in 1994, and she later married Robert "Bobby" Pennington.
"He had got her off drugs," Anthony Dozier said. "She was clean for a long time with Bobby."
But neither Pennington nor anyone else succeeded in truly ending Dozier's addiction.
She tried to help others while in jail
Dozier was sent to prison for 10 months for drug trafficking in 2004. Pennington died while she was behind bars. Still, she tried to help other inmates during her incarceration, the family later learned from people who did time with Dozier.
"She ministered to the women in jail," Bell said. "She had a caring soul. She cared about everybody."
But she didn't take good care of herself. By 2006, she was using again, and her family tried an intervention.
"We all sat down and told her this can't happen anymore," Bray said. "She understood."
Things got a little better. Dozier had a steady boyfriend, and she brought in money cleaning homes and styling hair.
"She wasn't just out there in the streets," Bray said.
Bell said the last time she saw Dozier was in 2007. It was an important moment of reconciliation. Bell had spent years not speaking to her sister. Dozier had used Bell's name as an alias during an arrest. It took years for Bell to clear her name.
"We were just starting the healing process," Bell said, remembering that they laughed and talked that day while eating plates of tacos that Dozier had made.
She was a wonderful cook, relatives said. For them, it was a glimmer of the girl who loved being in the kitchen with mom.
The worst was behind them, they believed. She was calling family members regularly and had lengthy periods of sobriety.
But then the calls and visits stopped. Anthony Dozier, who had just returned from a stint in the Marine Corps, filed a missing-person report on June 11, 2007. For the next two years, he often cruised Cleveland streets at night looking for her.
Family members said they put up fliers seeking information on Dozier's whereabouts but they often mysteriously disappeared. When a friend mentioned that Dozier might be visiting a house on Imperial Avenue, Anthony Dozier went to check it out but found nothing. It was a few doors away from Anthony Sowell's home.
Investigators found her body buried in the back yard of Sowell's house in the fall of 2009.""
Bray spoke at her daughter's funeral. She made no excuses for her daughter's life.
Several of Dozier's children said they wanted to break the cycle of intergenerational despair the family has suffered. Anthony and Antonia Dozier both said they want to make sure they are around for their kids.
Antonia Dozier, a graduate of Cleveland's Health Careers Center High School and Sanford Brown Institute, is determined to be a stable mother for her three children. She said she only wishes she had gotten her career off the ground faster -- so she could have offered shelter and support to her mom.
"I always felt like I could have been a factor in my mother's life to help her really get herself together. And if she was here today, that would be something I would be working on," she said.
"I can't make anybody do anything; you have to want it for yourself. But she did. She honestly did. I really would have been there for her, to help her get herself together."
Mar 15 11 6:21 PM
By Charles Montaldo, About.com Guide March 14, 2011When detectives in Cleveland found 11 bodies in and around the home of accused serial killer Anthony Sowell, they could not shake the feeling that there could be more victims. A cold-case team was formed to investigate 75 unsolved homicides within a three-mile radius of Sowell's "House of Horrors" dating back to the 1980s.
What they didn't expect to find was a second serial killer who had been preying on women in the same neighborhood.
"Our approach to all of this was to find more Sowell victims," County Prosecutor Bill Mason told reporters. "Because we believed there were more. What we didn't expect to find was another serial murderer."
Looking For More Victims
After the bodies of 11 women were found at Sowell's home in October 2009, investigators began digging through old case files trying to locate evidence in the other unsolved cases, trying to find DNA evidence that could be tested to see if there was a match with Sowell.
In November 2010, the finally got a match on DNA evidence from at 1989 murder. But the DNA did not belong to Sowell.
Evidence from the murder of Mary Thomas, 27, who was strangled and beaten to death matched that of Joseph Harwell (pictured above) who is currently serving 15 years to life for the strangulation death of a Columbus woman in 1997.
Thomas' body was found in an abandoned building near Sowell's home and less than two miles from Harwell's home.
Harwell Charged in Two Deaths
It wasn't the first time that Harwell's DNA had been linked to a homicide after he was in prison. In 2008, Harwell's DNA was linked to the murder of Tondilear Harge, 33, whose body was found in an overgrown lot in East Cleveland near where Harwell lived.
Over the years, evidence in some of the 75 cold cases has been misplaced or lost and DNA evidence has been degraded, but Mason said 46 of those cases remain open.
As a result of the investigation, known as the "Sowell Surge," Harwell, 50, has been charged with six counts of aggravated murder, two counts of rape and six counts of kidnapping in connection with the deaths of Thomas and Harge.
Apr 5 11 6:45 PM
CLEVELAND - More money has been approved in the trial of accused murderer Anthony Sowell.
During a pretrial hearing on Monday, Cuyahoga County Common Please Judge Dick Ambrose gave the defense an additional $52,040 to pay for experts during the trial.
“Court has provided defendant with funding beyond what was previously considered normal for a capital case in this jurisdiction,” Ambrose said.
Authorities found 11 bodies at Sowell’s Imperial Avenue home in October 2009 while serving an arrest warrant. The trial has already faced several delays, but Ambrose said on Monday “Be prepared for trial on June 6.”
This latest round of funds will cover the cost of a mental health expert, military records expect and a forensic pathologist. Money will also go towards neurodiagnostic testing.
The mitigation investigator also wants an additional $75,750, after already getting $60,000. Judge Ambrose will rule on this request at a later date.
“The duty to investigate does not require defense lawyers to scour the globe on the off chance something will turn up,” Ambrose said.
Sowell's defense team has been filing motions under seal, meaning no one can see what the team is asking for, including the prosecutor.
The next pretrial hearing will be on April 29.
Apr 5 11 6:49 PM
The price tag on the most expensive publicly funded criminal defense in Cuyahoga County's history went up again last week when a judge approved an additional $42,000 in expenses.
In an order filed Friday afternoon, Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose granted most of Sowell's recent funding requests for a mental health specialist, neurodiagnostic testing, a military records expert and a crime scene and forensic pathologist.
The only expense Ambrose hesitated to approve was for an additional $75,000 for a New Orleans-based mitigation investigator -- a social researcher whose job is to humanize Sowell, evoke jurors" sympathy and ultimately save him from the death penalty.
Ambrose already reluctantly approved $60,000 for mitigation work performed earlier by another expert, and he questioned why the mitigation budget originally proposed is now expected to exceed twice that amount. The judge said he will conduct a hearing before approving the additional funds.
Sowell, 51, is accused of killing 11 women whose remains were found in 2009 in and around his home on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland. He is charged with multiple counts of aggravated murder, kidnapping, abusing a human corpse and tampering with evidence. He could receive the death penalty if convicted.
His trial, which already has been postponed several times, is scheduled for June 6, with no pending motions to extend the start date any further.
But defense lawyers John Parker and Rufus Sims do not have to hand over their experts' findings to prosecutors for review until 21 days before the trial begins. And prosecutors might ask for more time to review the expert reports and file a response, depending on the volume of material they receive, said Assistant County Prosecutor Rick Bombik.
Parker declined to comment on whether the defense team might request more time or money, saying only that their investigation is ongoing and they hope to be ready by June 6. Sowell is due back in court April 29.
Ambrose wrote in his opinion that he recognizes the need to provide an adequate defense and said that the court has been generous in granting Sowell's requests beyond what is normal for a capital case in Cuyahoga County. The judge vowed to continue to cover reasonable and necessary expenses, but he cautioned the lawyers to use their remaining time and resources wisely.
"As previously stated by this Court, the duty to investigate does not require defense lawyers to scour the globe on the off chance something will turn up," Ambrose wrote. "Reasonably diligent counsel may draw a line when they have good reason to think further investigation would be a waste. It is time for counsel to draw that line and be prepared for trial June 6, 2011."
Apr 20 11 6:16 PM
EAST CLEVELAND - Over the course of three years, 11 women disappeared from the Cleveland area. Their remains were found in October 2009 at Anthony Sowell’s home on Imperial Avenue in East Cleveland.
Sept. 12 1990— Anthony Sowell pleads guilty to attempted rape and is sentenced to 15 years in prison.
June 20, 2005— Sowell is released from prison.
October 2007— Crystal Dozier, 38, isn’t reported missing until the bodies are found, but she was last seen sometime in October.
August 2008— Family members of Leshanda Long, 25, say she was last seen in August. Only her skull is discovered at Sowell’s home.
Oct. 12, 2008— 45-year-old Michelle Mason is reported missing by her mother, who said she last saw her on or about Oct. 4, 2008.
Dec. 2, 2008— Tonia Carmichael, 52, is reported missing by her mother. Her remains will later be found in Sowell’s backyard.
Jan. 1, 2009— Kim Yvette Smith, 44, was last seen. She was never reported missing to Cleveland police.
April 18, 2009— 47-year-old Amelda Hunter is last seen, according to a missing persons report filed by her family. She isn’t reported missing until the bodies are discovered.
April 24, 2009— Nancy Cobbs, 43, leaves her home to go to a neighborhood store. She isn’t reported missing until Nov. 2.
May 31, 2009— 31-year-old Telacia Fortson is reported missing. Her 6-year-old son’s DNA will later help identify her remains.
Aug. 2, 2009— Janice D. Webb, 48, is reported missing to Cleveland police. Police check area shelters and hospitals, but do not find her.
Oct., 29, 2009— Police find the bodies of two women decomposing at Sowell’s Imperial Avenue home while serving a warrant. Sowell is not at home.
Oct. 30, 2009— Police find three more bodies at Sowell’s home, bringing the total to six. Oct. 31, 2009— Sowell is arrested two days after authorities discovered the first of bodies found in his home. Police say Sowell told the officers "I'm the guy you are looking for."
Nov. 2, 2009— There was concern that the Sowell’s step-mother could be one of the victims found in the Imperial Avenue home, but Sowell's brother, Allen, says she is safe in a nursing home.
Nov. 3, 2009— Sowell appears in court and is charged with five counts of aggravated murder, as well as rape, felonious assault and kidnapping. He is not granted bond. Cleveland police say five more bodies and a skull have been discovered, bringing the total number of bodies found to 11.
Nov. 4, 2009— The first of the victims is identified: Tonia Carmichael. Her remains were identified through DNA.
Nov. 5, 2009— The Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office identifies Tishana Culver, 31, and Telacia Fortson, 31. Officials tear apart interior walls of Sowell’s home in search of more evidence or bodies.
Nov. 6, 2009— 43-year-old Nancy Cobbs is identified as the fourth victim. Investigators stop searching the Imperial Avenue home.
Nov. 9, 2009— Three more bodies are identified over the weekend: Amelda Hunter, 47, Crystal Dozier, 38, and Michelle Mason, 45. Police also notify the families of Janice D. Webb and Kim Yvette Smith.
Nov. 10, 2009— The FBI uses a thermal imaging camera to try to determine if there are any more human remains buried in the yard.
Nov. 11, 2009— Sowell is indicted on one count of attempted murder, two counts of rape, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of felonious assault in connection with an attack that happened on Sept. 22.
Nov. 12, 2009— The first funeral for the victims is held for Telacia Fortson. Police identify the skull as 25-year-old Leshanda Long.
Nov. 14, 2009— Funerals are held for Nancy Cobbs and Michelle Mason. The FBI spends the day combing through the backyard and under the porch, searching for more evidence and human remains.
Nov. 15, 2009— The Cleveland Rape Crisis Center launches a special hotline in hopes of hearing from those who survived encounters at the house.
Nov. 17, 2009— Funerals are held for Kim Smith and Janice Webb. Investigators, including bomb squad members, who have technology to search for remains underground, continued their search of Sowell’s home.
Nov. 21, 2009— Funerals are held for Amelda Hunter and Crystal Dozier.
Nov. 25, 2009— Police ask a leading anthropologist and a forensic artist to help identify the remains of an 11th woman found inside the home of the suspected serial killer.
Dec. 3, 2009—Sowell pleads not guilty by reason of insanity.
Dec 5, 2009— The 11th victim is identified as Diane Turner, 38. Six days later a funeral is held.
Jan. 5, 2010— Sowell's team withdraws insanity plea to just a plea of not guilty.
Feb. 17, 2010— Detectives ask to talk to Sowell about crimes committed more than 20 years ago with similarities to Imperial Avenue. Sowell’s attorneys say their client has a right to remain silent.
Feb. 23, 2010— Detectives hold jail interview with Sowell.
Feb. 25, 2010— A grand jury returns a three-count indictment against Sowell for kidnapping, attempted murder and felonious assault related to an incident involving a 42-year-old woman. This brings the total number of charges against Sowell to 85.
March 3, 2010— Sowell is at the middle of the investigation of the 20-year-old missing persons’ case of Mary Cox, 28. Prosecutor Bill Mason asks his cold case unit to look in to every unsolved murder within a few miles of Sowell's two houses. The unit finds 24 cases where biological evidence was obtained.
March 5, 2010— Police and prosecutors alike now agree Sowell's alleged rapes and murders began long before the bodies of 11 women were discovered.
March 16, 2010— Sowell authors a brief, but pointed, prison letter to the court, questioning why his private records were included in two stories in the Plain Dealer.
March 17, 2010— Judge Shirley Strickland Saffold threatened to arrest newspaper reporter Gabriel Baird of The Plain Dealer, who saw Sowell’s psychiatric evaluation, then backed off Wednesday when she learned that her predecessor in the case had made it available.
March 26, 2010— The Plain Dealer reports that opinionated online comments about Sowell's case were posted from Strickland Saffold’s personal e-mail account. She denies posting the items and her daughter identified herself as the writer.
March 30, 2010— A three-member city panel recommends a complete overhaul of Cleveland’s handling of missing person and sex crimes cases, saying it should adopt better practices currently used in other cities.
April 1, 2010— Sowell faces 10 additional charges for attacking a Cleveland woman at his home in September 2008, more than a year before the decomposing bodies were found. Autopsy reports show eight of the 11 victims were strangled by various household objects, including ropes and belts, and nine had traces of cocaine or depressants in their systems.
April 5, 2010— Sowell’s defense attorney, Rufus Sims, makes a claim that Judge Saffold violated the code of conduct and now has an appearance of conflict.
April 13, 2010— Former judge of the Sowell murder trial Timothy McGinty testifies that he has a brief, five-minute conversation with Judge Saffold—an ex parte conversation without an attorney present. He also admitted he was the one who showed Sowell's court-order psychological profile to a Plain Dealer reporter.
April 16, 2010— Judge Saffold says she sees no reason to step aside as requested by lawyers representing Sowell.
April 20, 2010— The Ohio Supreme Court is asked to remove Judge Saffold from the Sowell case.
April 22, 2010— The Ohio Supreme Court removes Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Saffold from the case.
April 23, 2010— Judge Dick Ambrose was chosen from a random drawing to take the Sowell case. He’s the third judge on the case.
April 26, 2010— Computers are removed and secured from Judge Saffold’s courtroom. The computers were subpoenaed as part of the court case between Judge Saffold and The Plain Dealer.
May 6, 2010— The trial is set to begin Sept. 7, after Sowell’s defense team said they needed more time to go through the case’s discovery. The trial was originally set to begin June 2.
May 12, 2010— Police security will be reduced after June 5 to nighttime hours, in a cost-saving move requested by the city. The home is surrounded by a city-installed 10-foot fence and was under 24-hour surveillance by officers.
June 29, 2010— Sowell’s defense team says it needs more time to interview more than 150 witnesses and review evidence. The trial has already been delayed once and is scheduled to begin Sept. 7.
July 17, 2010— Judge Dick Ambrose approves up to $25,000 to prepare for the mitigation phase of the trial and $30,000 to hire a forensic scientist who has examined Sowell's home.
Aug. 8, 2010— Judge Ambrose says only one family member of each of the 11 victims will be allowed to sit in the courtroom during Sowell's trial because of a lack of space.
Aug. 12, 2010— Sowell waives his right to a speedy trial. The trial is now set to begin Feb. 14.
Sept. 21, 2010— Judge Ambrose rules that police interrogations of Sowell can be used during the trial.
Oct. 15, 2010— Judge Ambrose approves $21,000 to review more than 2,000 hours of surveillance video from Ray’s Sausage, which is next-door to Sowell’s house.
Oct. 29, 2010— The community holds a vigil at the Imperial Avenue home to make the one year anniversary since the bodies were found.
Dec. 8, 2010— The families of five of the victims of Imperial Avenue file a wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Cleveland.
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