By Lee Hill

We have our collective eye on a chilling story out of Cleveland, Ohio.

Anthony Sowell, 50, was arraigned today on five charges of murder. He is accused of strangling and burying several women in and outside his house. So far, 11 decomposing bodies have been found (one of the bodies was reportedly found outside the house, although away from public view). Officers will continue to search Sowell’s house for more victims.

Cleveland authorities say Sowell’s neighbors reported a foul smell in the area for years, which was eventually blamed on the sausage company next door to Sowell’s Imperial Avenue home. Apparently, the odor was so strong that city officials ordered the sausage establishment to make $10,000 worth of repairs. Those repairs included flushing the sewerage system with bleach.

There are many questions to be answered in this case.

Sowell is a convicted rapist. He re-entered society in 2005 after serving a 15-year prison sentence after raping a 21-year-old woman in 1989. In some jurisdictions, such as Washington, D.C., sex offenders can expect random home visits, or “accountability tours” from local police. The felon’s residence is subject to inspection for pornography and anything else that could signal a relapse in reform. Still, among the questions: how can 11 rotting bodies go undetected in a home for so long, even when neighbors complained of a stench?

Also, were these victims — all of which have been confirmed as black women — ever reported missing? And what was the status of police investigations into their disappearances?

What we do know, from Sowell’s earlier rape conviction, is that the former Marine (who served eight years in North Carolina, Okinawa, Japan and California) seemed to have a penchant for targeting women who were already on the fringes of society. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports a former victim of Sowell’s, who escaped, as having been told by him:

“You’re just another crack [expletive] from the street. No one will know if you’re missing.”

And, of course, just who is Anthony Sowell? One ponders how the alleged serial killer could murder and then live among his decomposing victims — especially considering the neighbors’ description of the stench as unbearable.

And while police try and pin down exactly when and why these murders occurred, we also want to know more about the working-class neighborhood surrounding the Imperial Avenue house. Some find it unconscionable that such a scene could go unnoticed as bodies accumulate on a property, leaving an odor that alarms the senses.

So, how was such a situation undetected for so long in this neighborhood?

We’re on the story, and we hope to tell you more.


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