EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (Reuters) - An Ohio man charged with kidnapping and murdering three women whose bodies were found wrapped in plastic bags was ordered held on $6 million bail on Monday, as police investigated the possibility of other victims.
“There may be more to this, which is why we are continuing to do searching and use other agencies to help us along,” East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts told reporters at a press conference.
Michael Madison, 35, a registered sex offender who pleaded guilty to attempted rape in 2002, was arraigned in East Cleveland Municipal Court on three counts of kidnapping and three counts of aggravated murder - a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death.
He was arrested on Friday at his mother’s home hours after the first body was discovered not far away in the garage of the apartment building where Madison lives. Neighbors’ complaints of a pungent smell triggered the search.
“We believe if left on the streets just one hour longer, (he) may have put the lives of others in danger,” East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said at the press conference.
During a police interview, Madison invoked the name of a Cleveland serial killer, Anthony Sowell, who was convicted of murder in the deaths of 11 women whose bodies were found wrapped in garbage bags in and around his home in 2009, Norton said, declining to elaborate further.
“Things that he said made us believe he was influenced by Sowell,” Norton added.
In court, Judge William Dawson said the $6 million bail he set represented $1 million for each count.
Handcuffed and wearing a gauzy purple jumpsuit and diamond-like earring, Madison quietly told the judge he understood the charges against him.
Madison, his head closely shaven and beard trimmed, declined to enter a plea and waived a preliminary hearing. His case will now be transferred to Cuyahoga County Court.
Authorities said he would be taken to the Cuyahoga County jail, where Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, is being held in a separate kidnapping case involving three female captives.
The bodies, two of which were found by cadaver-smelling dogs, were located in a garage, the basement of a building and in a weeded lot nearby. The bodies had been there for about six to 10 days, during which temperatures soared into the 90s, said the mayor.
One of the victims was identified as Angela Deskins, 38, Norton said. Authorities were working to identify the other two victims, he said.
Autopsies conducted on all three women could not immediately determine a cause of death because their bodies were so badly decomposed, said Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson.
General contractor James Fambro, who worked on Madison’s sparsely furnished apartment, said it had once been occupied by the mother of Madison’s child before she moved out. Fambro said that after Madison’s arrest, he entered the building’s garage and saw blood on the floor.
Editing by Barbara Goldberg, Bill Trott and Steve Orlofsky