The home where a serial killer dumped the remains of the 11 women he murdered was torn apart Tuesday by a demolition crew, a move that neighbors and victims' relatives said would help bring closure and stop gawkers from seeking out what some have dubbed a "house of horrors."
Heavy equipment began clawing at the former home of Anthony Sowell just before dawn, a day after family members of those who died were hand-delivered letters notifying them of the demolition. Video from WEWS-TV showed that the work commenced as several people stood across the street, chanting "Tear it down!" and "Hallelujah!"
By late morning, the home was almost completely leveled, and the crew was hauling away the remnants in a huge dump truck.
Razing the house will help the families move forward, said Frances Webb-Speed, the sister of victim Janice Webb.
"A lot of the families still live in the neighborhood and it will be good for it to be gone," Webb-Speed told The Plain Dealer. "The place is an eyesore and some people have tried to use things from the home for personal gain."
The city condemned the three-story house in September because of numerous issues, including problems with the roof, plumbing, heating, electricity and water supply and roach, flea, termite and rodent infestations.
Sowell, 52, has been sentenced to death for the killings and is appealing his conviction. Prosecutors said he lured women to his home by promising them alcohol or drugs.
The murdered women began vanishing in 2007. Police discovered 10 bodies and a skull at Sowell's house in late 2009 after officers went there on a woman's report that she had been raped at the home.
Neighbors blamed a stench from the rotting bodies on an adjacent sausage factory, which spent $20,000 on new plumbing fixtures and sewer lines to try to make the smell go away.
Many of the women who turned up dead had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. Bodies were placed into trash bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in various parts of the house and yard.
It's unclear what's next for the property. Some family members and city officials have suggested that a monument or community garden be installed on the site.
Associated Press photographer Tony Dejak in Cleveland contributed to this report.