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.
WEB EXTRA : Click on the video player to watch 50 minutes of Vanessa Gay's testimony during the trial Wednesday. She said she was raped by Sowell and described what it was like inside his Imperial Avenue home. WARNING: Testimony is graphic and may not be appropriate for everyone. (note to mobile/app users: video only available on full site due to large file size).
It is WEWS/newsnet5.com policy to not reveal the identity of a rape victim, but Gay gave permission for her name and face to be used in connection with the case and media reports.
4:18 p.m.: Sowell's attorney, Rufus Sims, walks slowly over to the podium in front of the witness stand. He asked the woman after Tonia's drug use and her disappearances.
"She said 'You're going to miss me when I'm gone,' two weeks before she went missing," Carmichael said.
4:09 p.m.: "I kept calling her all night… I went to the Warrensville (Heights) police station and they told me to go home," the older woman said, while shaking her finger.
"Some people said they seen her, but 'Come to think of it, we haven't seen here in a long time," Barbara Carmichael said. "They knew her as Toni." She said she called the coroner's office while her daughter was missing, and she called them again after hearing news of the gruesome discovery on Imperial Avenue.
4:01 p.m.: "She was a happy child. Smart, very smart," Barbara Carmichael said, about her daughter Tonia. Tonia Carmichael's body was the first found in Anthony Sowell's backyard. Prosecutors said she had an electrical cord tied around her neck. Tonia had three children, two boys and a girl.
Barbara Carmichael said her daughter started "running with a faster crowd," and that her daughter would go out and they wouldn't hear her for a few days.
"She said she was going to kick it (drugs) on her own, but I said she couldn't. It was too strong for her," Carmichael said. Her eyes are sad, but she seems confident in the words she says.
3:38 p.m.: Gay tells Parker that she has been clean now for 16 months and that she doesn't want to go back to that. But now Parker's line of questioning goes back to her allegations of rape. Gay said Sowell went on a rant about how crack changes a person, but then he would settle down. He even laid down next to her, like they "were a happy couple."
"He would calm down and that evil look in his eye would go down a little," the woman said.
3:32 p.m.: Parker, reading from a piece of paper, asked the woman if she remembered saying that she heard voices. Gay said she did hear voices telling her that she wasn't good enough, but that smoking crack made those voices louder.
At one point Parker asked her if it's true that she spend $2,000 on shoes during an manic episodes. She said that was just her loved of shoes, lightening the mood in the courtroom for the first time today. Even a smile comes to Judge Dick Ambrose's face.
3:20 p.m.: Parker said the woman appeared in Judge Timothy McGinty's courtroom in 2008 and went through a psychiatric evaluation, as . McGinty was the first judge assigned to Anthony Sowell's case.
3:08 p.m.: Defense attorney John Parker starts questioning the woman after nearly an hour of testimony. He asked about her past drug use, which she has already been very blunt about during her earlier statements. Anthony Sowell, who faces 8 counts, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, sits still. His head remains resting on his hand, which is propped up on the table in front of him. He blinks a lot, but his eyes are fixed ahead of him. I can't tell if he's looking at Parker or the witness.
2:55 p.m.: Gay said she left and walked towards Kinsman, yelling for help. She said she was severely injured, as she set her head in her hands to catch her breath.
Gay, trying to keep herself composed, lost control of her emotions as she yelled that she had no confidence in the police. She said she tried to escape by any means necessary, staying high so she didn't have to think about what she went through.
Gay said she knew Leshanda Long, who she called "Thick." She covers her hand with her face, as she talks about "Her girl." She also knew Kim Smith, who she called "Candy."
2:46 p.m.: "All I could do is pray… And agree with trying to keep calm and agree with what he said… I will throw you in a closet for three days and forget about you… And I kept thinking this is how it's going to end," Gay said.
"The plastic was pulled up and there was … It looked like it was body. It looked like there was no head on it," the woman said, describing a trip to the bathroom. "It was propped up, sitting on the floor... This is not possible. This is not real."
"'You're gone tell, I know you gone tell.' He wasn't talking to me, he just talking,"
the woman said. "All I could think was 'Get out. Get out.'... Let me go!"
2:37 p.m.: "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."
Gay said he want on a rant about his ex-girlfriend and woman who did crack, then went back to normal.
"He said 'You don't deserve what I'm about to do to you,'" Gay said. "And it was all bad after that." She then admitted Sowell raped her.
2:29 p.m.: As Gay describes walking up the steps to the third floor of Sowell's house, she fights back more tears and her voice becomes shaky.
"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 said, describing Sowell's bedroom.
2:21 p.m.: The next witness is a 37-year-old woman who lived in the Cleveland area all of her life. Vanessa Gay was upfront with assistant prosecutor Rick Bombik about her issues with drugs, which she was introduced to in 2005.
"I wasn't high, I couldn't get high that day… A person happened to walk past me… that was my first encounter with him (Anthony Sowell)," Gay said. This encounter happened in August 2008. "He said why don't you come and celebrate my birthday… It was a pleasant conversation." She is tearful and struggles with her words as she said she walked with Sowell to Imperial Avneue.
2:05 p.m.: "It was around Halloween. It was Halloween day… They said there was a serial killer up in Cleveland," Allen said about news reports on the 11 bodies found on Imperial Avenue. Allen contacted the coroner's office when he "started wondering and found out it was on Imperial."
Allen said it was normal to not hear from his daughter for months and started checking with other family members after the discovery on Imperial Avenue. A DNA sample from Leshanda's daughter confirmed that she was one of the victims.
1:53 p.m.: "I tried heavily to try to turn her lifestyle things around," Allen said of his daughter, who childhood nickname was "Crybaby Ganster." "She had older brothers and she would try to beat them up."
Allen said the last time he had contact with Leshanda Long was sometime in April or May 2008. Long's skull was found in a red bucket in the basement of Anthony Sowell's house in November 2009. Allen said his daughter would call him each year on his birthday and her birthday, but in August 2008 Allen said "there was no call."
1:44 p.m.: Leshanda Long's father, James Allen, takes the stand after the lunch break. Allen said Long was born in the Dayton area, but raised in the Cleveland area. He was never married to her mother and eventually got custody of his daughter when she was 13.
Leshanda was in and out of the juvenile court system and her father said he tried to bring structure to her life. At the age of 15, Long gave birth to a daughter, Allen said. Long had two other children.
"She was probably on drugs… I seen the way she acted. You know your child when you've been around them. You can fool some people, but you can't fool your parents," Allen said, with a raspy voice.
12:49 p.m.: So far during the trial, 17 people have testified, including victims' family members, a member of the Cleveland SWAT unit and Anthony Sowell's ex-girlfriend. There is a total of 132 people on the witness list.
12:12 p.m.: Judge Dick Ambrose gives the jury a few instructions about how they are not to talk, Twitter or blog about the case, in order to eliminate any bias. The court will take a lunch break, with more testimony this afternoon.
11:54 a.m.: Latanya Irby, Culver's sister, is next on the stand. Irby is pregnant and talks about her sister losing her finance at a young age, who died from a gunshot wound. Irby said she would frequently get caught in the middle of fights between Culver and her boyfriend.
"Imperial Avenue was all I knew… when I found out, I was shocked," Irby told assistant prosecutor Lauren Bell about finding out about the bodies on Imperial Avenue. Irby said she thought her sister would call to talk about the discovery on the street they knew so well, but that call never came.
11:37 a.m.: "I didn't know where she was, but I just prayed about it. Wherever she was, she was in God's hands," Williams said. After the findings on Imperial Avenue, Williams was told by detectives "she was one of the ladies found in the house down the street. She lived five doors down."
Williams said she used to go to one of the stores on Imperial Avenue to pick up a few groceries. On one of those trips, she saw Anthony Sowell, standing near the Coke machine.
"He stared at me and I stared at him," Williams told assistant county prosecutor Lauren Bell. "I felt his presence of him staring at me." During each of the witnesses' testimony, Sowell sits, intently listening, with his head on his hand.
11:29 a.m.: The next witness on the stand does
not want to be photographed. Her voice is slightly muffled as she speaks into the microphone. Yvonne Williams-McNeil is the mother of Tishana Culver, whose body was found in a third-floor crawl space at Anthony Sowell's house. Her wrists were bound with rope.
"I thought she was with her boyfriend, Carl Johnson, because he lived in Akron, and she was going back and forth between Cleveland and Akron," Williams said. "I thought that's where she was all the time."
11:23 a.m.: When the bodies were first discovered at 12205 Imperial Ave., Dozier said he didn't suspect his mother was one of the victims, but the family did suspect the possibility. He found about his mother's death during a phone call with his sister in November 2009.
While defense attorney Rufus Sims cross-examines Dozier, young man shows his military background, answering questions with "No, sir," and "Yes, sir." He said he mother was addicted to crack cocaine.
11:11 a.m.: A well-dressed and nervous Anthony Dozier is next on the stand. He struggles to spell his own name, but settles in with the next few questions from assistant prosecutor Rick Bombik. Anthony is the sister of Antonia and the son of Crystal.
"They (Cleveland police) sent me a letter in about September of that year," Anthony Dozier said. "From my understand, when I first filed that initial report, I was told she was an adult, and had a right to disappear." That's when Dozier started canvassing the area, talking to people and posting fliers near East 130th and Buckeye.
"I would run up on people, show them pictures and ask them questions," Dozier said. "I actually would run into people who knew her (Crystal)."
10:50 a.m.: The next witness on the stand, called by assistant prosecutor Rick Bombik, is a young woman with long hair: Antonia Dozier, the daughter of victim Crystal Dozier. Her voice is a little timid and her answers are short. At the age of 11, the now-25 Antonia Dozier went into foster care, living with her grandmother. While they did not have much of a relationship growing up, the two became close when Antonia became pregnant at the age of 17.
"Whenever I was with my mother, we always had a good relationship," Dozier said. "I couldn't tell she was on drugs. She didn't come off that way. She was very caring." Dozier said she last spoke to her mother on Mother's Day in 2007, and her and her brother filed missing persons reports with police days later.
10:48 a.m.: After a quick walk through the 18th floor of the Justice Center, it seems that it a much busier place today. During the break, several people were passing through the metal detector outside of Judge Dick Ambrose's courtroom at 18D. Perhaps we will hear from more victims' families.
10:25 a.m.: "We started to staple them anywhere and everything," Mary Mason said. "We started to receive phone calls. 'Oh, she was seen here.' 'Oh, she was seen there.'" She is poised on the stand, as assistant prosecutor Pinkey Carr hands her a paper. "That's the flier we used to try to find my sister."
"We posted fliers at the store on 123rd and Imperial, right by Mr. Sowell's house," Mason said. "My mother said 'How come we keep going to these places and the fliers were gone?'"
10:11 a.m.: Through her nervous laughter, Mary Mason, Michelle's sister, takes the witness stand. Mary, who served in the Army and is retired from the U.S. Post Office, raised her sister's son, Franklin.
"Michelle was doing very well. She was in her sobriety. She was going to her meetings… Volunteering with the AIDS Task Force," Mary Mason said, about her sister in October 2008. Michelle had been sober for about eight years at that time. "When Michelle wasn't sober, she was out on the streets… She wasn't interested in family and that sort of things.
9:53 a.m.: Atterberry, becoming clearly frustrated explaining the fliers disappearing, is now questioned by defense attorney Rufus Sims. Sims has not done a lot of talking so far during the trial, but speaks kindly to the woman, asking if she hanging in there.
When officers searched Michelle Mason's house after she went missing, Atterberry said "I had a feeling she was dead already."
"The gentleman in the store said Mr. Sowell would come in and when he left, the signs were gone," Atterberry told Sims when he asked if she ever found out what was happened to the fliers.
9:39 a.m.: In October 2008, Atterberry filed a missing persons report after her daughter, who was now clean, had been missing for two days. Atterberry struggles to clear her throat, as she speaks about the fliers she put up of Michelle in the Buckeye and Imperial area.
"Fliers were gone from some of the areas… they were gone too," Atterbery said. The tearful woman said fliers of her daughter were even posted at the pizza place across the street from Sowell's house.
Atterberry gave a DNA sample at the coroner's office before finding out her daughter was one of the bodies found at Sowell's Imperial Avenue home. Prosecutor Rick Bombik said during his
opening statements that Mason's body was in Sowell's backyard, with a brown sock tied around her neck. Atterburry is nervous, covering her mouth with her hands in between sentences.
9:28 a.m.: When Mason was just 16, she left for New York, and Atterbery lost contact with her daughter. Years later, she found out her daughter had two children, which Atterberry soon brought back to Cleveland to live with the family. Atterberry finally saw her daughter after about five years and found out Michelle had AIDS.
"She would be out late, that was a sign to me. She would be out too long, too late," Atterburry said, in between sniffs about her daughter's drug problem. "She got shot, up here in Cleveland." Michelle suffered a gunshot wound to the right eye in the area of East 131st Street. Even after the shooting, Michelle Mason's behavior remained the same and eventually lead to her being checked into a drug treatment facility, Atterberry said.
9:21 a.m.: Adlean Atterberry, an older woman in a pink sweater, is jittery as she sits down next to the judge. While she has been a foster mother to numerous children, she had six biological children, including victim Michelle Mason.
"Michelle was kind of happy, joyful all the time," Atterberry said. "She could come into this room and smile, and everyone would smile too." The woman sniffs as she recalls her daughter's birthday.
9:11 a.m.: During Sowell's defense attorney John Parker cross-examination of Brandon Pompey, he asks about the drug activity in the neighborhood of Imperial Avenue and East 123rd Street. Pompey said that drugs deals frequently happened in the area and they heard gunshots. Parkers also asked Pompey about the conversations he and Sowell had about their time in the Marines. As Pompey describes his time in boot camp, calling it "harrowing," Sowell smiles and laughs a little.
8:53 a.m.: Brandon Pompey cracks a smiles as he settles in on the witness stand. Pompey moved into the second floor of 12205 Imperial Ave. in February 2003, with his wife, Lakeesha, who took the stand yesterday.
"It tended to be a little rough. There was a house immediately adjacent to owns that was allegedly selling drugs," Pompey said. His sentences are short and direct. Pompey said his daughter was 9-months-old when they started living there.
In the latter part of 2005, Pompey and his family started seeing mice multiple times a week. Even after an exterminator came to the house, the mice returned and so did an unfamiliar scent, Pompey said.
"There became a smell that I didn't recognize," Pompey said. "Maybe rotten food, if you will. We speculated that maybe there was a dead animal or something… It would become stronger as you moved into the apartment."
8:51 a.m.: A deputy opens the wood-paneled door at the side of the courtroom and Anthony Sowell quickly walks out. Within moments Judge Dick Ambrose and the jury enter. The judge seems in a better mood today, smiling as he talks to the jury.
8:23 a.m.: The second day of testimony in the trial of 51-year-old Anthony Sowell, who is accused of killing 11 women and keeping their bodies in and around his home on Cleveland's east side, brought tearful testimony. Sowell's ex-girlfriend and the niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, Lori Frazier, spoke about the nature of her relationship with the defendant. She described Sowell as a nice guy, who cooked for her and took her shopping. But Frazier also said that while living on Imperial Avenue, she started to smell something strange.
"He would just get off base, and scream and holler in my face," Frazier said. "He smacked me and I fell on the table, and I tried to kick him," she said through tears.
The jury also heard from the mother of one of the victims. Florence Bray, Crystal Dozier's mother, told the jury about her two-and-a-half-year search for her missing daughter, who she called her baby, when shown a picture.
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