US & Canada

Anthony Sowell faces lethal injection for 11 murders

Anthony Sowell
Image caption Mr Sowell sat with his eyes closed while victims' family members described their sorrow

A US man has been sentenced to death for the murders of 11 women whose remains he kept in his house in Ohio.

Anthony Sowell was found guilty last month of aggravated murder, kidnapping and other charges in the 11 deaths.

At court in Cleveland, the 51-year-old sat with eyes closed as Judge Dick Ambrose read aloud the details of each murder, before passing sentence.

The bodies were found after police went to arrest Sowell in October 2009 on a sexual assault allegation.

His execution by lethal injection was scheduled for 29 October 2012, although it is likely to be delayed by appeals.


Judge Ambrose described how the women's bodies had been disposed of in bin bags and plastic sheets, then dumped around Sowell's house and backyard.

Nearly all of the women had been strangled and were nude from the waist down.

The judge - who gently warned spectators to refrain from outbursts - also read testimony on Friday from several women who survived Sowell's attacks.

He said that evidence of Sowell's troubled childhood, his eight-year service with honourable discharge from the US Marine Corps, and his lawyers' assertions that he was psychotic did not mitigate the crimes.

Judge Ambrose also noted Sowell had spent 15 years in prison for attempted rape.

Image caption A woman who survived Sowell's attack embraced a juror at the trial's conclusion

Relatives of his victims were in court to hear the sentence, which had been recommended by a jury a day earlier.

Sowell continued to sit with eyes closed as they gave emotional statements about the impact of his crimes on their lives.

"I have forgiven you," said Kyana Hunt, daughter of murder victim Nancy Cobbs. "The only reason that I have is because I need God to forgive me for whatever I have done wrong."

'Dead man walking'

A woman who survived Sowell's attempt to kill her said she was no longer angry at him.

"I have to forgive him so I can move on with my life," she told the court, "because if I keep the anger inside I can't budge."

Another relative said: "For what time you have left on this Earth, I hope you never have peace because you'll have to answer to God for what you've done."

One woman said Sowell was "a dead man walking".

Another bereaved mother said, weeping: "I never believed in the death penalty until I met you."

The women began to disappear in 2007.

Prosecutors said Sowell had lured them into a rundown three-storey house in Cleveland to drink alcohol and smoke crack cocaine and marijuana.

Sowell then had sex with or violently raped the women, before strangling them with rope, electrical cable or strips of cloth.

The bodies were discovered buried in shallow graves in the backyard or within the house, many wrapped in plastic sheeting or bin liners.

'God have mercy'

Until the discovery of the bodies, many in the neighbourhood believed the bad smell was coming from a nearby sausage shop.

The family-owned business spent $20,000 (£12,260) on plumbing and other maintenance in attempts to get rid of the odour.

Sowell did not address the court on Friday, but on Monday he said in an unsworn statement: "The only thing I want to say is I'm sorry.

"I know that might not sound like much, but I truly am sorry from the bottom of my heart."

After passing sentence, Judge Ambrose urged those victims who had not forgiven Sowell to find a way to do so, suggesting that would be the only way they could move on.

Then, speaking to Sowell, who opened his eyes and looked attentively at the bench, he said: "And may God have mercy on your soul."

As Judge Ambrose banged the gavel and Sowell was led away, the courtroom erupted into cheers, with prosecutors and victims' family members embracing members of the jury.