Prosecution rests in Ohio trial of alleged serial killer

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 18, 2011 7:53 PM
Prosecution rests in Ohio trial of alleged serial killer

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The prosecution in the capital murder trial of Anthony Sowell, a Cleveland man accused of killing 11 women whose remains were found around his home in 2009, rested on Monday as the grisly case entered its fourth week.

Jurors finished watching the almost nine-hour interrogation of Sowell recorded on the day the defendant was arrested, after police investigating a rape charge and executing a warrant at his home discovered the decomposing bodies.

Sowell appeared at times agitated, at times quiet in the videotape as the detectives ask him again and again to help them identify the bodies. "It is more complicated than you think," Sowell, 51, tells them.

Homicide detectives Melvin Smith and Lem Griffin are seen doing most of the talking toward the end of the interview, asking Sowell about a woman found naked and injured in the alley next to his house.

At one point, asked about the remains of a woman found in a bag in his home, Sowell snaps at his interrogators. "Can't go there," he says. "I can't tell you that."

Eventually, the police ask Sowell to give up his shoelaces and sign a form, then he's handcuffed and taken away.

Sowell was later interviewed and recorded again without an attorney after he asked to speak to detectives. That video shows Sowell in a prison jumpsuit talking to the same detectives about various things: his time in the Marines, football, his ex-wife.

Smith then shows Sowell pictures of six women, including four victims. Sowell claims to not recognize any of the photos saying only that the woman in one of the pictures, Nancy Cobb, "rings a bell."

Griffin later testified that the last picture Sowell was shown was of his ex-girlfriend, Lori Frazier, and that Sowell didn't want to give the photo back and "chuckled."

The judge sent jurors home after the prosecution rested, then court continued in order to go over admissible evidence.

Defense attorney John Parker asked for some charges to be dropped. He disputed the validity of the kidnapping charges by claiming the women came to Sowell's house willingly.

But Judge Dick Ambrose dropped the kidnapping charge in relation to just one of Sowell's alleged victims, 25-year-old Leshanda Long.

Long's skull was found in Sowell house but police never recovered her body or any evidence of strangulation.

Sowell faces the death penalty if found guilty on the 11 counts of aggravated murder and a variety of other offenses, including violent attacks on several women he did not kill.

He originally pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but changed his plea to not guilty.

The trial will resume on Tuesday morning, when Sowell's defense will begin calling witnesses.

(Editing by James B. Kelleher and Peter Bohan)