Father of alleged serial killer victim waited for call

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 05, 2011 9:23 PM
Father of alleged serial killer victim waited for call

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The father of one of alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell's victims testified at Sowell's trial on Tuesday that he knew something was wrong when he did not get a call for days, and then months, from his troubled daughter.

But Donald Smith, the father of Kim "Candy" Smith, said police ignored his concerns.

"I knew something was wrong and they just blew it off," Smith said.

Sowell, 51 is charged with the aggravated murder of 11 women whose bodies were found in and around his house. Two women who said they were raped by Sowell but survived also testified on Tuesday.

Sowell was arrested on October 29, 2009, two days after the initial discovery of the bodies. The decomposing bodies were found by police responding to a report by a woman who said she had been attacked in the home. If convicted, he could be given the death penalty.

Witnesses were asked by prosecutors if missing persons reports were filed with the police or if fliers were posted after their family member's disappearance. Prosecutors also asked when the victims were last seen and how often they would 'check-in' with family and friends.

Smith said that while his daughter, who had trouble with drugs from her last year in high school, would sometimes disappear for a week or two, she would always call. He worried when he had not heard from her for days after she left his house January 17, 2009, because the family had been planning a birthday party for her.

"Every hour seemed like a day, every day seemed like a month," Smith said.

He said he distributed fliers through some of her daughter's friends and offered a $500 reward for information, but heard nothing.

Smith is one of the family members who have sued the city of Cleveland over their handling of the Sowell case.

WOMAN SAYS SURVIVED ATTACK

One woman whose report of being attacked in Sowell's home helped lead to the discovery of the first two bodies there testified she met him in 2007 and did drugs with him and his then-girlfriend several times before she was attacked in 2009.

Latundra Billups, 37, described meeting Sowell, buying crack and going with him alone to the uninhabited second floor of his home where she questioned him about a rumor that he attacked a woman, which he denied.

After smoking crack and drinking, Billups said Sowell asked her to turn around, then put his hands on her neck when she complained. "He hit me and hit me hard," she said, adding he told her to take off her clothes.

Billups said Sowell raped her while choking her with an extension cord until she blacked out. When she woke up, Sowell looked surprised she was alive, she said.

According to her testimony, Sowell then said: "I'm going to kill you because I know I'm going to jail." Billups said she promised she wouldn't send him to jail, and then he offered her a change of clothes and told her to come back for $50 for her ripped sweater.

Billups went to the hospital the next day where she waited 6 hours to see a nurse and eventually file a police report.

Richard Durst, a Cleveland sex crime detective, testified his attempts to reach Billups after her rape report were unsuccessful at first. But eventually a warrant was issued that would lead police to find the first two bodies in Sowell's third floor.

Another woman, Shawn Morris, testified Sowell raped her in October of 2009 when, after spending some time with him in his house without incident, she returned to get her ID.

"He came behind me and put me into a military choke-hold," Morris explained. "He told me I wasn't going home until he said ... (and) I would do everything he said to do or he was going to kill me," she added.

Morris' testimony was similar to Billups. She said Sowell demanded she take off her clothes and lie on her stomach. Her screams caused Sowell to get up to close the windows, and Morris said she decided to jump from an open window.

She said she didn't remember anything until waking up in the hospital three days later with two broken hands, eight broken ribs, a skull fracture and an aneurysm. She told the hospital staff and her husband she was in a car accident because she feared Sowell would kill her.

(Writing and reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Greg McCune)