August 5, 2011 / 12:30 AM / in 6 years

Serial killer Sowell's sister asks jury to spare his life

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Convicted Ohio serial-killer Anthony Sowell cried as his half-sister Tressa Garrison asked jurors on Thursday to spare the man who killed 11 women from the death penalty and impose life in prison without parole.

“I was struggling ... He tried to be the man in my life,” she told jurors as she wept during the fourth day of testimony to determine Sowell’s sentence. “He is all I have left.”

Sowell, 51, was convicted of murder, attempted murder and kidnapping by the jury that now must decide whether to impose the death penalty. Police serving an arrest warrant for rape and assault in 2009 found decomposing bodies on the floor and buried in and around his house.

Garrison, 44, denied seeing or knowing about any sexual or physical abuse while growing up with Sowell but did say her nieces and nephews were tied up naked and beaten because, as she explained, “They would keep running away.”

She also told assistant prosecutor Pinky Carr she saw Sowell punch a woman after drinking and “smoking weed” because the woman was starting to argue with Garrison. “He hit her once and she was bleeding all over the place,” Garrison said.

Defense attorneys this week have called for testimony from mental health experts, corrections officers, teachers, a former Marine, five relatives, an ex-girlfriend and a former prison cellmate, among others.

Sowell could take the stand on Friday or Monday in an informal question and answer session with defense attorneys.

After prosecutors asked her to discuss the events that led to Sowell’s conviction for attempted rape in 1998, Garrison said she was not convinced there had been a rape, though she said she had seen a woman on the roof of the house partially naked, bound at the wrists and visibly upset.

“They paid that girl to say he raped her,” Garrison said, blaming the police for Sowell’s conviction as well as that of his brother and father. “East Cleveland (police) played some sort of part in this.”

Dr. George Woods, a neuropsychiatrist, said Sowell suffered from a variety of psychological problems including post-traumatic stress and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Woods met with Sowell three times in 2010 and said a report that stated Sowell admitted having sex with a Chatty Cathy doll as a child was indicative of post-traumatic stress from abuse.

Woods also testified that Sowell remembered biting the hand of someone who had abused him but not “the specifics” and had been traumatized after seeing other children in his family engage in sex acts at a young age.

Editing by David Bailey and Cynthia Johnston

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