Cleveland condemns house where 11 bodies found

AP News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2011 2:51 PM
Cleveland condemns house where 11 bodies found

The city has condemned the killing ground dubbed the "House of Horrors," a home where 11 women were murdered by a man who dumped their remains around his house and property.

The owner has until Oct. 2 to make repairs or face having the house demolished, mayoral press secretary Andrea Taylor said Friday in an email to The Associated Press.

The three-story frame house in an impoverished Cleveland neighborhood was the home of Anthony Sowell, who was convicted and sentenced to death last month for killing the 11 women, many of whom were living on the street and dealing with addiction problems.

Sowell, 52, is appealing his conviction.

The four-page "notice of violation" sent Wednesday lists 22 violations, including problems with the roof, plumbing, heating, electricity and water supply and roach, flea, termite and rodent infestations.

The owner, Virginia Oliver, Sowell's 89-year-old step-grandmother, said Friday she hadn't decided whether to make the repairs or allow the house to be razed.

The notice also was sent to the estate of Sowell's stepmother and a reverse mortgage company. A message seeking comment was left Friday for an attorney representing the company.

A neighbor, Don Laster, said he would love to see the Imperial Avenue house demolished.

"It's spooky. The kids don't like walking past," he said. "It's definitely a thorn in the neighborhood. I can't even rent my property because nobody wants to live on Imperial."

The rotting bodies created a stench that neighbors blamed on an adjacent sausage factory. The owner spent $20,000 on new plumbing fixtures and sewer lines, to no avail.

The house, which has been fenced off for security, was visited by jurors when Sowell's trial began. The forewoman said after the verdict that the visit gave her an overwhelming sense of sadness.

"I started to cry," she said. "I knew something horrible happened in that house."

The remains of the victims were found when police went to Sowell's house to investigate a sexual assault complaint in October 2009.

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 and dumped in various parts of the house and yard.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose, who presided at Sowell's trial, ruled Friday that Sowell will get separate trials in alleged attacks on two survivors who testified against him in the murder trial.

Sowell will go on trial Monday on rape and kidnapping charges. A kidnapping-attempted murder case was postponed.

Prosecutors wanted both cases postponed pending Sowell's appeal and mentioned a concern that his death sentence could be jeopardized. Both sides continued plea-bargain talks Friday, assistant county Prosecutor Aaron Brockler said.