CLEVELAND, Ohio (Reuters) - A convicted rapist was charged with multiple murders on Tuesday after police dug up 10 corpses at his home, which produced a stench of death in the depressed Cleveland neighborhood.
Authorities searched the fetid property owned by Anthony Sowell with a backhoe, jackhammers, wall saws, and cadaver dogs. They planned to take the three-story house apart.
Four bodies were found in the back yard, while six others were discovered elsewhere on the property, including in the basement of the house. A skull wrapped in a paper bag in a bucket could be an eleventh victim.
Five of the victims were black women who had been strangled, according to the coroner.
Sowell, 50, was arrested over the weekend for rape. The victim said he had invited her in for a drink then became enraged and choked her with an extension cord.
When police entered Sowell’s house they found two decomposing bodies lying on a floor upstairs.
A sausage store next door to Sowell’s home was blamed for the rank smell wafting through the neighborhood, but an attempt at repairs failed to stop the odor.
Sowell, who served in the military in the 1970s and 1980s, was charged with five murders as well as five counts of rape, kidnapping and assault. Other charges are likely after more of the victims are identified.
Authorities were trying to match the victims’ DNA to that of missing women. “In some cases, no missing person’s report was made,” said Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath.
He said Sowell cooperated with authorities initially but later requested a lawyer. “It appears he had an insatiable appetite he needed to fill,” McGrath told reporters.
Neighborhood residents said they avoided Sowell, who was released from prison in 2005 after serving 15 years for raping a pregnant woman.
Writing by Andrew Stern; editing by Chris Wilson