Neighbors say that the stench on Cleveland’s Imperial Avenue could be unbearable, especially on hot days. It smelled like blood, like something decomposing. It smelled like death. Some thought it was the city sewers; others blamed Ray’s Sausage Company, one of the few businesses left on that run-down street. Regardless of where they tried to lay the blame, all knew the stench was coming from in around 12205 Imperial Avenue, the residence of Anthony Sowell, a known drug dealer, pervert, and convicted sexual predator with a habit of beating women.
The rotting stench had been reported as far back as 2006 but city workers claimed there was no gas leak, no sewer leak or backup, the sausage factory was not in violation of any health codes, and women were still vanishing with the three-story white house being the focus. Anthony Sowell moved back to the house in 2005.
The neighborhood used to be – like thousands across America – a blue-collar workers neighborhood with houses and lawns well-kept and family owned businesses nearby to accomodate shopping needs without having to catch a bus or drive. Now it is a sad, dangerous mix of run-down houses, boarded up houses, well-kept houses, and abandoned businesses whose owners fled from the drugs and crime long ago.
The house at 12205 Imperial Avenue belonged to Anthony Sowell’s deceased father. His step-mother resided there until 2007 when she was sent to a nursing home. The stench was prevalent then. Paramedics talked about it, gagged while taking Mrs. Sowell to the hospital but they reported nothing and they, of all the people in and out of the house, should definitely have recognized the stench of decomposing bodies. Anthony blamed his dirty old stepmother. But, even the stench of his dirty old stepmother was better than the prison that had been his home for 15 years after he pled guilty to rape and battering of a prostitute he brought home in 1989. He blamed his violence on his drinking.
Anthony Sowell served six years in the United States Marines, enlisting at 18. He trained as a sharpshootere and made the rank of Corporal. He served honorably at the Marine Corps Air Station, Cherry Point, North Carolina; Camp Pendleton, California; and Okinawa, Japan. He earned two good conduct medals during his stint from 1978-1985. He wasted no time getting in trouble and by 1989, four years after mustering out of the Marines, Anthony Sowell was in route to the state pen for rape and brutal assault. At the time, he was residing with his parents in the home he had returned to once leaving the military.
No one noticed a stench – at least not anything beyond rotting trash or plugged toilets, until Anthony came home from the Marines. Moreso after he came home from prison. It didn’t take long.
Women began disappearing within days of his release in 2000. Most of the women were black, poor, living in subsidized housing or on the streets or in a local shelter. All were drug addicts. All had conviction records for drugs and prostitution. Some had children. Most had families that noticed their absences, and their connection to Anthony Sowell.
Some reported their relatives or friends missing but police largely ignored the report since long disappearances are the habits of drug addicted hookers. Police had been to Sowell’s house before. They couldn’t miss the stench. No one could. It didn’t brook being ignored. Not even wind blew it away for long, if ever. Mostly the wind just swirled the stench around and into open windows, doors, eyes, and mouths, including of children in the neighborhood.
Children who never shut up about much that is wrong and are usually ignored. On October 29, 2009, police arrived again at the Sowell residence but 50 year old Anthony wasn’t home. Police decided to snoop about in response to a rape complaint lodged against Anthony Sowell. They didn’t find Anthony but they did find a fresh grave and two corpses. The search was on and so was a manhunt. Two days later, Sowell was arrested.
Within a month of the initial investigation, police and Federal Agents had unearthed bodies in the living room, the crawl spaces of the house, in the backyard, under the basement stairs, in the yard of the abandoned house next dorr. They found a skull in a bucket. Evidence in a home four doors down involving a child.
Armed with blueprints, infrared devices, thermal imaging, ground-penetrating radar, and x-rays and cold case files, the search was on for more of Anthony Sowell’s victims. The FBI launched an investigation into any unsolved murders or ties to Anthony Sowell during his military tenure at all bases he was stationed, including Japan.
After discovering that Anthony Sowell, like all killers and sexual predators, had a social website advertising himself and his long-time live-in girlfriend (the mayor’s niece) as being into “S&M” and looking for a slave to their master needs, police and federal investigators were now faced with obtaining his records and profile and possible links to other victims both in and outside the Cleveland area.
Other victims who, in all likely hood, were not street hookers and addicts. Anthony Sowell set up his Alt.com profile exactly one month after being released from prison. This site deals solely in dating services for people with sexual fetishes, including bondage. It is one social site federal agents have come across before in homicide cases but have failed to shut down.
On November 13, 2009, Anthony Sowell was arraigned on multiple counts of rape and assault on the victim who led police to his home in October. On December 1, 2009, Anthony Sowell was indicted for the murders of eleven women. If they had hung onto him back in December of 2008 when he was arrested, once again, for rape and assault – with ample evidence – several of the victims he now has amassed would still be alive.
To make matters worse, Lori Frazier, the niece of Cleveland’s mayor was living with Anthony Sowell while all this was going on.They had been living together since 2005 and Ms. Frazier claims she had no idea from the stench arose. Now we have a “protect the politician” factor involved in this serial homicide investigation.
The victims of Anthony Sowell would still be alive if they had run from the stench in the house instead of going on ahead to smoke the crack, chug the beer, and do whatever else they were there for. How desparate do you have to be to walk into a house that reeks of dead people, made cops puke, where there are dead bodies and rotting body parts everywhere? And you not only go on in —- YOU STAY!!!
And you done knew the score BEFORE you even walked down the street with this dog because several of your friends disappeared while with him. Everyone in the neighborhood had been reporting the stench for years! Does crack make you both blind and stupid??!! Guess, sho nuff, that’s why it’s called “dope”. I know several Oklahoma City crack street hookers who ain’t that dumb — or desperate. Of course, some of them have the “john” option of a local cop, too, but — as in the cases of the slaughtered prostitutes nationwide — most have left there own trail of carnage in their wake of drugs and selling themselves: families they have bled dry, social services they have bled dry of more money than they ever earned on their backs, children they had taken away by DHS and CPS, a long history of drug use and abuse, a long criminal history, countless failed drug rehabs, until one day, they wake up and realize that no one cares anymore if they live or die: Not mom, not the dad they never knew or is ashamed of them, not their johns, not their kids. No one. So, in the midst of a new pity party caused by themselves, they turn another trick for another hit, take another beer and smoke and ten dollars or twenty or fifty or — when they’ve really gone downhill — the price of a pack of Carnival cigarettes, from another stranger, and the beat goes on
until Anthony Sowell.
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