Daughters of two of serial killer Anthony Sowell's victims walked the vacant lot on Imperial Avenue for the first time since their mothers' bodies were recovered nearly four years ago.
CLEVELAND - Police conducted dozens of searches for 45-year-old Michelle Mason, of Cleveland, checking area hospitals as well as the residences of both Michelle and a family member.
Mason was reported missing Oct. 12, 2008 by her mother, who said she last saw her on or about Oct. 4, 2008.
"Just to have your mother drop off the face of the earth and have no idea where she's been. And just pops up one day and you find out how she died? That's horrible," said family friend Christian Carter, who went to school with Mason's son.
While she has been a foster mother to numerous children, Adlean Atterberry had six biological children, including 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.
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.
"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.
In October 2008, Atterberry filed a missing persons report after her daughter, who was now clean, had been missing for two days. Atterberry struggled to clear her throat, as she spoke 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.
"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.'"
"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?'"
"We hope God have mercy on your soul. I am not a hateful person," Atterberry said, during the sentencing phase of the trial. "I never believed in the death penalty until I met you."
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 under less than a foot of dirt, with a brown sock tied around her neck.
"When I first met her, she welcomed me with open arms to the family," said Mason's nephew-in-law David Dial said. "And she liked to crack jokes and was just a happy person."
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