EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (Reuters) - Police in East Cleveland, Ohio, were leading volunteers in a search on Sunday for more possible victims of a suspected killer who left three women’s bodies, wrapped in plastic, around a run-down neighborhood.
East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said that Michael Madison, 35 has been arrested as a suspect after authorities in the past two days found the bodies near the apartment building where the suspect lived. Neighbors’ complaints of a “pungent” smell triggered the search.
The bodies, two of which were found by trained cadaver-smelling dogs, were located in a garage, the basement of a building and in a weeded lot around the building where Madison lived.
Madison is a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to attempted rape in 2002 according to Cuyahoga County court records. He was arrested after a stand-off at his mother’s home not far from the crime scene Saturday. He is now in an East Cleveland jail.
The bodies were “in states of advanced decomposition,” the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement, adding, “Because of this, identification and final cause of death may take several days.”
The discoveries were reminiscent of a 2009 incident, when 11 bodies were found around the home of Cleveland’s Anthony Sowell, who was convicted of murder two years later.
Volunteers turned out the area on Sunday at police request to search empty lots and vacant buildings in the area.
Clifford Burns, a pastor from Anointed Gates Church in the east side of Cleveland, one of the organizers, said he expected hundreds of volunteers to help search the many deserted properties.
“It was a request by the mayor and the police last evening,” Burns said. “They requested on a volunteer basis that people meet at noon and join in a search party. We have a lot of concerns in the neighborhood.”
Velvet Farmer, 21, said she has a cousin who lives on the street and had spoken to Madison, who told her his name was “Ivan,” a few times and he seemed normal.
She said she was shocked to learn he is a suspect adding, “I‘m glad to be alive.”
Burns said neighbors complained of the stench and eventually the fire department came to investigate. “The smell was pungent,” Burns, a former member of the military who says he is familiar with the smell of decay, told Reuters.
“It was bad and he (Madison) didn’t have a sausage shop to blame for it,” Burns added, referring to the Ray’s Sausage shop the business next door to Sowell’s house that was often blamed for a foul odor in the area.
Editing by Scott Malone, Theodore d'Afflisio and Nick Zieminski