A serial killer who hid the remains of 11 women in his home and yard suffers from sexual compulsions and "mimicked sex" with a toy doll when he was a young boy, a mental health expert told jurors Thursday.
Anthony Sowell suffers from several mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder that results from abuse he sustained during childhood, said Dr. George Woods, an expert hired by the defense.
Sowell was convicted last month of aggravated murder in the 11 deaths. The jury has been hearing evidence this week before it recommends either the death penalty or life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Sowell grew up in a family that had a history of physical abuse that went back for generations, Woods said.
Woods said Sowell remembers biting the head of someone who was sexually assaulting him when he was younger than 5 years old, but he does not recall the specifics of the assault.
Sowell also described "when he was very, very, young, about mimicking having sex with his doll," Woods said. "And also spreading feces on this doll." Sowell was 3 or 4 years old when this happened, Woods said.
Woods also described Sowell's "obsessive" behaviors, such as his predilection for counting the number of inmates and staff members when he was incarcerated. In prison, Sowell would become highly agitated and "almost impossible to calm down" when he couldn't find one of his personal belongings, Woods said.
Woods also diagnosed Sowell with unspecified psychoses and an unspecified cognitive disorder.
Earlier Thursday, Sowell's half-sister appealed to the jury to save his life _ but admitted during a testy cross-examination that he sometimes got angry and once assaulted a girl who had been acting "aggressively" toward her during an argument.
"All he did was hit her once," Tressa Garrison, 44, told the jury. "She was bleeding all over the place."
Garrison and Sowell were smiling as she recounted the story.
Garrison was called by the defense to portray Sowell favorably and help him escape the death penalty, but she testified under cross-examination by assistant Prosecutor Pinkey Carr that her brother would get angry if he drank alcohol and smoked marijuana at the same time.
During Garrison's testimony, Sowell was more animated than usual, shaking his head "yes" or "no" in agreement. At one point, he made a comment _ inaudible in the public gallery _ that drew a sharp glance from the judge and prompted a deputy to take up a position behind Sowell.
Garrison claimed that many factors share responsibility for the 11 murders: an ex-girlfriend who left him, a family history of depression, the Marines who failed to detect a cardiac problem more than 20 years before he suffered a heart attack and police officers who failed to recognize the stench at Sowell's home as that of rotting bodies.
"I think it was my fault. I think it was my mother's fault. I think it was the police's fault," she said. "Everybody played a certain fault."
If Sowell had gotten the help he needed over the years, Garrison testified: "It would have never have happened."
"Something drove him to it," Carr responded. "It wouldn't be his fault, would it?"
On Monday, the jury heard for the first time that Sowell had a prior sexual-assault conviction in 1989 for attempted rape, for which he was incarcerated until 2005. Any mention of it was withheld during the trial to avoid prejudicing jurors.
When Garrison complained that police had failed to properly investigate that 1989 attack, Carr used the opening to elicit a key detail previously unknown to the jury: that the victim was partially naked and bound at the wrists, similar to some of his murder victims.
Garrison cried and Sowell wiped away tears as she testified about their close relationship.
"I still need him," Garrison said.
Police said Sowell lured victims to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police began finding the remains, including a skull, just before Halloween 2009 after officers went to investigate a woman's report that she had been raped there.
Many of the victims had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. They were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in various parts of the house and backyard.