Day 16: Anthony Sowell trial

Jury received case Wednesday afternoon

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.


The trial for accused serial killer Anthony Sowell began on June 6 with what would turn into weeks of jury selection. The prosecution called 62 witnesses and played roughly 12 hours of interrogation video, while the defense rested without calling a singled witness.

On Wednesday at 3:55 p.m. the jury was officially given the case, to determine 51-year-old Sowell's fate. He faces 83 counts, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, in the deaths of 11 women.

If he is convicted, he could be sentenced to death.


5:47 p.m.: We were just told that the jury has asked to stay until 6:30 p.m. and will return between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Friday. Since they want to stay late tonight, we can assume they are making progress.

5:35 p.m.: While Judge Ambrose said the schedule of deliberations will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., we've also been told that the jurors can stay longer, if they wish. It's the court's duty to support the jury. Now, since 51-year-old Anthony Sowell faces 83 changes and is eligible for the death penalty, if convicted, the jurors are sequestered during deliberations. The jurors spent last night at a hotel, where they are not permitted to watch TV. They are allowed to bring along DVDs that have been screened ahead of time.

4:47 p.m.: Jurors may also re-watch the nearly 12 hours of interrogation video from Oct. 31, 2009.

"As imperative as it is to identify… this process we're going though, we want to make sure there are no more… So we can we can be as honest as can be about how many," Det. Melvin Smith said to Sowell during the interrogation. "How many girls are there?"

"We mentioned 10. We know six, you know six," Smith said.

"This is the most significant thing that has ever happened to in your life, in your 50 years living. Six dead bodies are very, very significant. They are concrete, like you," Det. Smith said. "They're not going nowhere for the rest of your life."

4:13 p.m.: At this point, the jury has had the case for more than 24 hours and they have spent about 10 hours deliberating.

3:36 p.m.: Among the witnesses to take the stand, was Adlean Atterberry, the mother of Michelle Mason. On the third day of the trial, Atterberry was jittery as she spoke about her six biological children.

"Michelle was kind of happy, joyful all the time," Atterburry said. "She could come into this room and smile, and everyone would smile too."

When Mason went missing, Atterberry said the family went to work, posting missing person flyers across the area and at neighborhood businesses, including Imperial Beverage and the pizza place across from Sowell's house.

"The gentleman in the store said Mr. Sowell would take the signs down when he bought black bags," Atterberry said. Mason was HIV positive and suffered a gunshot to her right eye. Sometime after the shooting, Mason checked into a drug treatment facility.

2:47 p.m.: One of the key points made by both sides, is if Anthony Sowell committed the murders, was it pre-calculated?

"You have to decide if this is aggravated murder or murder," Parker said, during his closing arguments. Part of the requirement of aggravated murder is "prior calculation and design," which used to be call premeditation.

If convicted, Sowell faces four possible sentences: the death penalty, life in prison without the possibility of parole, like in prison with the possibility of parole in 30 years or life in prison with the possibility of parole in 25 years.

For more on the attorneys involved in the trial, click here

2:04 p.m.: During her closing statements, assistant prosecuting attorney Pinkey Carr mocked the defense's notion that the women were killed somewhere else and moved to Sowell's house

"I know everybody said he's a good guy. He helped out everyone. 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."

At one point, she even used a law clerk to demonstrate strangulation, and grabbed him around the neck. While a monitor blocked the action from our view in the media room, the Plain Dealer's Marvin Fong captured the moment. Click here

"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."

1:22 p.m.: Jurors will have to consider testimony from the four women who said Anthony Sowell attacked them. One woman, who has not been identified, said that she met Sowell on Oct. 20, 2009 and he bought her beer. She said she willingly went to his house to drink and even left his Imperial Avenue house, before realizing she left her


"When I climbed up the first four steps, that's when he came behind me and put me in a military chokehold," the woman said. "He told me I wasn't going anywhere… And that if I tried to scream, run or getaway, he was going to kill me."

"He told me to take off my clothes and get on the bed. He told me to lay on my stomach and he proceeded to violently rape me," she said. "'I hate you bitches… look at you, you got a husband at home and you out on the streets.'"

The woman eventually told jurors that she jumped out the window to escape. Three men testified that they saw a naked woman, laying unconscious, outside Sowell's house. When she finally received medical attention, she said she was in a car accident because Sowell threatened to kill her if she spoke. During cross-examination, she told defense attorney John Parker to get his "Miracle Ear fixed."

"I did not strike up a conversation with Mr. Sowell, he struck up a conversation with me. Don't get it twisted," she said. To read blog entries from each day of the trial, click here

12:16 p.m.: After the jury has alerted the court that they have reached a decision, Judge Dick Ambrose will have to review all of the paperwork before the verdict is announced. We have been told there will be at least an hour between when a verdict is reached and when it is announced in court. We do not know their progress in deliberations.

11:59 a.m.: A representative from the court system has told us the jury will remain sequestered during the lunch break. They will be taken to a separate room, most likely on the fourth floor. Since this case has a possible penalty of death, the jurors must remain sequestered throughout the deliberation process. Lunch is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.

11:47 a.m.: On the second day of testimony, Assad "Sam" Tayeh, who owns Imperial Beverage, took the stand. He told jurors that Sowell asked for heavy, duty garbage bags and would buy three boxes at a time.

"There was a very, very bad smell. My wife used to work with me, but she stopped coming in with me because of the smell," Tayeh said. He said he spoke to Cleveland Councilman Zach Reed and the health department about the issue. He also had an employee clean the store's Dumpster with bleach and Pine Sol to get rid of the odor.

11:08 a.m.: More than 400 exhibits were submitted to the jury as evidence, including photos taken by crime scene detective Kristine Rayburn. Rayburn said she took 673 pictures of the crime scene with a digital camera for the sex crimes unit and homicide unit, then turned the memory card over to the police photo lab. The photos range from piles of women's clothing and jewelry to crews removing bodies from Sowell's backyard.

10:34 a.m.: Following yesterday's lunch break, one female juror was taken to the hospital and excused from the rest of the proceedings. The young woman was seen being walked from the courtroom by fellow jurors and appeared overcome by emotion. She was replaced by alternate juror number one, who is a man. The jurors have spent a lot of time together since the jury was seated on June 24.

10:12 a.m.: A lot of people have been asking how long it will take until a verdict is reached. It's hard to tell, but keep in mind that Sowell faces 82 different counts that the jury must review, some with specifications that have to be considered individually. All those charges come with a great deal of paperwork, which will have to be done, regardless of what the verdicts are. On Tuesday, Judge Ambrose said each juror will have to sign or initial 250 sheets of paper. Post your questions in the comment below at the bottom of the page and I'll do my best to answer them.

9:51 a.m.: During his closing statements, Sowell's attorney John Parker tried to cast doubt on the state's case, saying there is no DNA linking his client to the remains of 11 women. Trace evidence specialists did not test a lot of the bindings found around the victims' necks and wrists because decomposition matter destroys viable DNA.

"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."

"We were able to extract, but it was not sufficient for the profile we were testing," said DNA supervisor at the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner's office Dr. Nasir Butt.

9:23 a.m.: The jury returned to the Justice Center at 8 a.m. to return to deliberations. Ambrose said the jury will deliberate until 6 p.m. As required in a death penalty case, the jury has to be sequestered.

8:52 a.m.: The media room is a much quieter place, compared to the chaotic scene and cramped space that Wednesday brought. Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose's courtroom is closed, with a single deputy sitting outside.

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