Imperial Avenue timeline

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.

Print this article Back to Top

Comments