Tonia Carmichael

CLEVELAND - Tonia Carmichael was the first of the 11 victims identified, after being discovered at Anthony Sowell's home.

The 52-year-old Warrensville Heights woman went missing in November 2008.

"She was a happy child. Smart, very smart," Barbara Carmichael said, about her daughter Tonia. Tonia Carmichael's body was the first found in Sowell's backyard. Prosecutors said she had an electrical cord tied around her neck.

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. The mother of three started using drugs later in life.

Carmichael was known to frequent the area of East Cleveland near Sowell's home on Imperial Avenue. Her body was the first one found in a shallow grave in Sowell's backyard. Prosecutors said she had an electrical cord around her neck.

Police identified Tonia's body and notified her family on Nov. 4, 2009. Her car was found just blocks from the crime scene.

"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 Tony." 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.

"You're used to waking up, being excited about seeing all of your family. Everyone together. Her enjoying her grandkids, her enjoying her family. So that emptiness is still there. We're still going to talk about her. We're still going to remember her throughout the day, but it's still hard not being able to touch her," Carmichael's daughter, Markeisha Carmichael-Jacobs told NewsChannel5 last Thanksgiving.

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