CLEVELAND - Follow along with NewsChannel5 web producer Jen Steer during the trial of Anthony Sowell, the man accused of killing 11 women and keeping their bodies in and around his home on Cleveland's east side. Check @WEWScourt for more updates. WARNING: Testimony is graphic and may not be appropriate for everyone.
After the defense in the Anthony Sowell rested its case without calling any witnesses on Tuesday, closing statements began Wednesday for the accused serial killer.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose warned the family members sitting in the court's gallery against making any outbursts during the proceedings.
During his statements, assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bombik, with the help of photos, gave the jury a timeline of events, leading to the October 2009 discovery of 11 bodies at Sowell's Imperial Avenue house. Bombik said that during the 12 hours of interrogation, at no point did Sowell deny killing the women.
One of Sowell's attorneys, John Parker, openly criticized the prosecution, the Cleveland Police Department and the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office for how the crime scene was handled. He warned jurors to determine the credibility of women who took the stand because their past drug use.
Sowell faces 83 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping and abuse of a corpse. He could be sentenced to death, if he is convicted.
4:41p.m.: The jury will deliberate on Thursday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.
3:55 p.m.: "The case is now in your hands for the verdict. All rise for the jury," Ambrose said.
3:54 p.m.: In his final directions to the jury, Judge Dick Ambrose tells the jury that they will be sequestered during deliberations. The alternate jurors will still be sequestered, but will not deliberate with the rest of the jury. Since one of the jurors was replaced for medical reasons, there are now only three alternates.
3:33 p.m.: "Leshanda Long, where's her body? Where?" Carr said. She said if the jurors believe the owner of Imperial Beverage, there was a large garbage bag in his store's Dumpster that smelled really bad. She holds up two photos: one of the red bucket, the other of Long's skull.
"He did it because he's evil. He did it because he's a serial killer," Carr said. "He did it. Not the bogey man, not Jermaine Henderson, not his step-mother Sojourna."
Slowly, Carr holds up a picture of each of the 11 whose bodies were found on Imperial Avenue, saying they are the 11 reasons why Anthony Sowell is guilty. Sowell sits unmoving in his chair, blinking frequently and starring at Carr.
"Find him guilty of each and every change. Do justice," Carr said.
3:27 p.m.: "This is all about Lori in his mind. But the only one with responsibility is him," Carr said. Lori Frazier was Sowell's live-in girlfriend, who spoke openly about his drug problem.
According to Carr, Crystal Dozier was the first woman that Anthony Sowell killed. Carr, in a soft voice, painted a picture of a man who thought he got away with murder, so he continued killing and continued burying women in his backyard.
"When he ran out of room in the backyard, he started sticking them upstairs in the front room," Carr said.
3:13 p.m.: "He had to look them in the face and suck the life out of them," Carr said. "That's not an accident… That's a killer."
2:58 p.m.: "Over the next few day, Cleveland and the surrounding suburbs, the state of Ohio and all over the United States, people were in shock. Cleveland has a serial killer," Carr said.
"I know everybody said he's a good guy. He helped out everyone He I guess he ran an all-night cemetery too," Carr said. "'Hey, Tony, you think I can put this body in your basement.' Because he was a nice guy."
"'Thanks for burrying Crystal so nicely,'" Carr said, mocking the defense. "After that, no more Mr. Nice Guy."
2:44 p.m.: The courtroom is packed after a brief break, as assistant prosecuting attorney Pinkey Carr walks to the center of the room to address the jurors. Carr said the jury has heard from 62 witnesses and determine what to believe.
"You have the right to believe some, all or none," Carr said. "The proof in this case is proof beyond a reasonable doubt."
2:25 p.m.: "His (Sowell) DNA is not anywhere on those homicide victims," Parker told the jury, adding that there was DNA from two unknown men inside the house as well. But one of his main points was that restraints do not necessarily indicate a person was kidnapped. He said the prosecution wants you to think that the ligatures were on these women before they were dead, but there is no proof of that.
"You will find the state of Ohio did not prove the identity of who killed these women," Parker said, to end his closing arguments. The prosecution, who bares the burden of proof, will have a change to rebuttal following a break.
2:13 p.m.: "You got dirt in the basement. You go dirt on the third floor," Parker said. He questions why the soil wasn't tested against the dirt from Sowell's backyard
on Imperial Avenue, mentioning a shovel that was found next to a body. "There's no question these women were strangled. No one's disputing that."
Parker said that we don't know when the ligatures were placed on the bodies, implying they were put there to carry them. He then suggests that it would take two people to carry the remains.
1:59 p.m.: "You're not here to solve a mystery. You're here to determine if the state proved its case," Parker said. "There's no rhyme or reason to this. And when you look at the ligatures, there's no consistency. None. It seems to be whatever was at hand."
"Wouldn't you want to test the ligatures? Just one time!" Parker yelled. "This man is an honorably discharged member of the U.S. Marines Corp deserves better. The 11 women whose bodies were found, they deserve better. And you, as a jury, you deserve better. The state didn't even try."
The attorney said Sowell was in pain during the interrogation, rubbing his head and the pace maker in his chest.
"This case is about a man who was spurned by a woman, who had an addiction problem and went out and did all these horrible things," Parker said.
1:54 p.m.: Parker then said that one of the woman, Gladys Wade, made the accusations against Sowell for financial gain. Wade said she was walking down Imperial Avenue when Sowell choked her and dragged her to his house.
While standing at the podium, Parker next speaks about Vanessa Gay, saying that she suffers from severe mental problems and that her testimony cannot be trusted.
1:39 p.m.: "No eye-witnesses. No fingerprints on the plastic bags, even though they tried… And there's none of the defendant's DNA on any of the 11 victims." Parker said. "You have to decide if this is aggravated murder or murder."
One of the women who took the stand said she went to Anthony Sowell's house to drink beer, when he raped her and she jumped from a window to escape. When she was brought back to testify in court a second day, her tone was hostile towards the defense.
"I think you'll remember her demeanor changed substantially. She didn't want to answer our questions," Parker said. "If you'll remember, Mr. Sowell went to the hospital with her. Is that what a rapist does?"
1:35 p.m.: One of Anthony Sowell's two defense attorneys, which is required in a death penalty case walks to the center of the room. He starts by thanking the judge and jury for their service.
"You have to determine the credibility of each and every witness that testified," Sowell's attorney John Parker said. "You got the jury instructions, you heard them yesterday. I encourage you to refer to them as you need to."
Parker told the jury that the photos shown to them are not meant to stir emotions, they are there for evidentiary value. He said they need to put their emotions aside and determine the credibility of five women with past histories of drug abuse and mental health issues.
1:27 p.m.: "After the morning session, one of jurors, had a medical issue and spent the afternoon on the couch in my office," Judge Ambrose said. "She was taken to the hospital."
Jury number 10 has been excused and replaced by alternate jury number one. Ambrose said he did not believe her condition was life-threatening.
1:08 p.m.: After speaking to Plain Dealer reporter Leila Atassi, I learned that one of the female jurors was crying by the end of assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bombik's closing statements. Two other jurors held her hands, walking her from the courtroom. These jurors have been together since jury selection ended on June 24.
11:54 a.m.: "Never, never, never lose sight of the big picture in this case," Bombik said. "Who lives here? And the answer to that question is Anthony Sowell… His bedroom is only a few feet away from decomposing bodies."
"This is not complicated, ladies and gentlemen. The evidence is overwhelming." Bombik finished his statements after two and a half hours.
11:50 a.m.: In the interrogation, Sowell listed off a few details about each of the women. He said one of them didn't live in the area. Janice Webbed lived in Lakewood. He said one of them worked at a Jamaican restaurant. Diane Turner worked at Dailey's. He said the name Michelle sounded familiar. Michelle Mason was buried in the backyard. At that time, only six bodies had been discovered.
11:42 a.m.: Part of the prosecution's case was 12 hours of interrogation video of Anthony Sowell, following his arrest on Oct. 29, 2009.
"There's no denial," Bombik said. "At no point in time did Anthony Sowell ever, ever, ever denied a thing."
"He said 'I know everybody's going to make me out to be evil. But I'm one of the best.'"
11:31 a.m.: Assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bombik continues to review the trace evidence, drawing conclusions based of DNA testing of carpet samples.
"What's the significance of that? You have DNA inside the house, you have a body in the backyard… She was in the house, his house," Bombik said.
"Strangulation is probably the strongest form of
prior calculation and design… If you do it long enough, you're going to pass out. You're going to lose consciousness. If you stop, life still goes on," Bombik said. "Three to five minutes of constant pressure. That is a long, long time."
11:23 a.m.: Among the people gathered inside the courtroom is Vanessa Gay. Gay took the witness stand on the third day of testimony, and with her head in her hands, told the jury how Sowell violently raped her.
"It was dark… It had a stall, musty, stinky smell. Dirty… You could feel the gloom," Gay said. "He had a bed and behind that bed was a big hole in the wall." Gay was up front about her drug use, during her testimony.
"After he took a hit, he turned around a punched me in the face. And told me to take my clothes," Gay said. "He said 'Bitch, take your clothes off.' He said if I didn't do what he said he would put me in a closet and forget about me."
11:15 a.m.: "For the exception of Tishana Culver, all of the victims were found nude to some extent," Bombik said.
While citing testimony from trace evidence supervisor Curtiss Jones, Bombik said that Crystal Dozier was buried in a shallow grave. He said she was wrapped in several layers of plastic and fabric, with wire and tape holding it together. Jones called it the most sophisticated of the wrappings.
"And who is Crystal Dozier? She is the first one to go missing," Bombik said. "She is the first victim of Anthony Sowell."
11:03 a.m.: Janice Webb, whose body was found under the stairs in Sowell's basement, was one of the first identified. Her wrists were bound and a belt was wrapped tightly around her neck. Her remains were the third found at the house at 12205 Imperial Ave.
As Bombik reminds the jury of testimony from two forensic pathologists, he shows them photos of the ropes, twine, cords and cloth that were used to restrain 10 of the 11 women. There are also flashes of autopsy photos that much be hard for family members to see, but the room remains quiet.
10:30 a.m.: Bombik describes the night in October 2009 when 13 members of the Cleveland SWAT unit raided Sowell's house. While the group did not find Anthony Sowell, they found the decomposing remains of Telacia Fortson and Diane Turner.
Cleveland police officers searched the house for more evidence, finding Fortson's jewelry, her food stamp card and a receipt.
"Somehow, some way, with this woman laying decomposing in a third-floor bedroom, he's out using her food stamp card," Bombik said.
10:24 a.m.: With more photos shown to the jury, Bombik tells the story of a woman who said she was sexual assaulted by Sowell, then jumped from an upstairs window of Sowell's house. Three men testified that they saw the naked woman on the ground in between the house and Ray's Sausage. Sowell told the men it was his wife, and she fell from the window while they were having sex. The men said Sowell showed no interest in getting the unconscious woman help, he just wanted her back in the house.
10:19 a.m.: While speaking about one woman who said Sowell raped her and choked her until she passed out, photos on the screen show the woman's injuries.
"She said there was a blanket and an extension cord on the floor," Bombik said. "He mentioned some about killing her and killing himself."
"He took her to the basement, got her some clothes and allowed her to leave." The woman went to the hospital the next day.
10:15 a.m.: The assistant prosecuting attorney shows more pictures: Nancy Cobbs, Janice Webb and Telacia Forston. There is little other noise in the courtroom besides Bombik's voice, except for the click of a doorknob.
"No more Janice Webb," Bombik said.
"She would disappear and nobody would hear from her after that."
The foster mother of Diane Turner's daughter took the stand to paint a picture of her life. Turner used to wash dishes at a Jamaican restaurant, but was not seen again after August 2009.
10:09 a.m.: Tonja Doss dated Anthony Sowell for about three months before she moved to New York. When she returned to Cleveland, she said Sowell had a girlfriend, Lori Frazier.
"He talked a lot about his girlfriend. Talked a lot about how his girlfriend moved out and left her clothes there," Bombik said.
"He said 'Bitch, you can be the next crackhead dead and no one would know. Knock three time on the floor if you want to live,'" he said. Doss was friends with Nancy Cobbs. Her remains were in a trays bag on the third floor, with rope around her neck.
10:06 a.m.: Kim Smith, who went by the name Candy on the streets, had no children. She went missing around her birthday when she was 44 years old. Like all of the women who were found at Sowell's house, Smith had a problem with drugs.
Amelda Hunter was last seen around April 19, 2009 and at one time, she even lived on Imperial Avenue.
10 a.m.: In his timeline of alleged victims, APA Bombik gets to Gladys Wade, who said Sowell's grabbed her off the street on Imperial Avenue, while walking to catch a bus back home.
"Miss Wade was not
shy about what she was going to do with that $11 when she got back to East Cleveland. She was going to buy some crack cocaine," Bombik said. She said she was choked and when she woke up, she was in Sowell's apartment, in a room with a Christmas tree.
"And she fought back. She fought back. And a battled ensued between her and Anthony Sowell," "And she's clawing him and she's fighting for her life."
Sowell was arrested following that incident, but he was released for insufficient evidence.
9:56 a.m.: Mother of three Tonia Carmichael started using drugs later in life. She was last seen driving her boyfriend's truck.
"They, too, would put up flyers," Bombik said. "But Miss Carmichael was never heard from again."
9:53 a.m.: With a happy picture of Michelle Mason on display for the jury, Bombik reminds them of the testimony from Mason mother and sister. Mason was shot and had a prosthetic eye.
Mason's mother, Adlean Atterberry, said she heard from the owner of Imperial Beverage that Anthony Sowell took down missing persons flyers while buying trash bags.
9:46 a.m.: "No denying Leshanda had a problem with drugs," Bombik said. Leshanda Long's skull was found in Sowell's basement. Her father said his daughter had three children and was a petite woman.
During the trial, Vanessa Gay told jurors that she was attacked and repeatedly raped by Anthony Sowell. Gay knew a few of the women whose bodies were found on Imperial Avenue: Leshanda "Thick" Long and Kim "Candy" Smith.
"She took a hit off of it. He took a hit of it, then he punched her in the face," Bombik said. "He said something to the effect of 'Bitch, take your clothes off.'"
Gay said she went to the bathroom and saw a body wrapped in plastic, but it looked like it was missing a head. This was in September 2008, not long after Leshanda Long had went missing. Only her skull was found.
9:43 a.m.: With a mugshot of Tishana Culver on the monitor, Bombik tells part of her story. She lived on Imperial Avenue for some time.
"It was her sister's impression that she was going to move back to Akron with her boyfriend," Bombik said. Culver's remains were found in an upstairs crawl space.
9:40 a.m.: As a picture of Crystal Dozier, mother of seven, appears on the screen, Bombik draws the conclusion that Frazier's breakup with Sowell caused him to snap.
"What happens here? Lori moves out and one of her friends goes missing," he said. Two of Dozier's children, Anthony and Antonia, testified that they look for their mother and posted flyers in the neighborhood.
9:37 a.m.: While showing photos of Anthony Sowell and his former live-in girlfriend on the TV monitor, Bombik talks about the importance of Sowell's relationship with Lori Frazier. When she took the stand, her emotional testimony painted a picture of a relationship tainted by crack cocaine
"We've heard a lot about drug addiction in this case." Bombik said. "It's a long way back to beating it. Some people can, some people don't."
While Frazier testified that Sowell begged her to come home, she kept her distance.
"This would fester and bring out some very ugly things in Anthony Sowell," Bombik said.
9:32 a.m.: "The house on Imperial, it has three floors to it," Bombik said. He goes on to explain that Sowell was the only person living on the third floor of the house. Bombik walks the jury through photos of the house, which is littered with clothing and trash. [PHOTOS: Inside Anthony Sowell's house http://5.wews.com/8aA ]
9:23 a.m.: "Everything in this case begins and ends with a certain house on Imperial Avenue," assistant prosecuting attorney Rick Bombik said. "12205 Imperial Avenue, the home of the Sowells for many, many years."
As Bombik explains the house's history, he mentions owners of area businesses, like Sam Tayeh, Fawcett Bess and Ray Cash, who took the stand during the trial
"Poor Mr. Cash had to spend $25,000, $30,000 to supposedly fix a problem." Cash, the owner of Ray's Sausage did a great deal of work to try to eliminate the odor that so many people thought was coming from his plant.
9:15 a.m.: Judge Ambrose warns the people in the gallery that verbal outbursts will not be tolerated during the closing arguments.
"You will hear twice from the state and once from the defense in closing arguments," Ambrose told the jury.
9:09 a.m.: 51-year-old Anthony Sowell has entered Judge Dick Ambrose's courtroom on the 18th floor of the Justice Center. The room sounds crowded with family members, though not many have been present during the proceedings. On Tuesday, the defense rested its case without calling a single witness to the stand. Most of the day's proceedings consisted of hours of jury instructions.
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