Anthony Sowell was born and raised in East Cleveland, Ohio. He has been described as having been a quiet small-framed boy who along with eight siblings and cousins, grew up in fatherless home where episodes of violence occurred.
The house that he grew up in was located in a mostly white working-class neighborhood. It was a large two-story house with a nice backyard for kids to play in. But inside the house, Sowell observed acts of violence. He witnessed two of his cousins as they were stripped, bound often times with extension cords and whipped by an adult. Who the adult was and their relation to the members of the house is unknown.
High School Years
In high school, still described as shy, he was often teased by boys in his class for his lack of sexual involvement with girls. But according to one of his cousins, Leona Davis, Sowell was very sexually active at home. She said during their pre-teen years he raped her on a regular basis and that even though she reported the abuse to the police, nothing was ever done about it.
Sowell's didn't finish high school. At age 18 he got a girl pregnant and decided to join the Marine Corp.
Although there is mention that Sowell drank heavily during his military career, there is little evidence of it when you see his accomplishments. He received a Good Conduct Medal with one service star, a Sea Service Deployment Ribbon, a Certificate of Commendation, a Meritorious Mast, and two Letters of Appreciation for his time served in the US Marine Corps from 1978 through 1985.
During his seven-year stay in the Marine Corp he was trained as an electrician and spent time at Parris Island in South Carolina, Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point in North Carolina, Camp Butler in Okinawa, Japan and Camp Pendleton in California.
He also got married to Kim Yvette Lawson and had a child during his military years. Lawson, who is now deceased, told her mother that she felt sorry for Sowell and wanted to help get him through the military. He was, according to his mother-in-law, a heavy drinker and on the verge of getting discharged. Lawson divorced Sowell on the day after he left the military.
Sowell returned to his hometown after leaving the Marine Corp, but his old neighborhood had changed. The economic level of the neighborhood had gone from working-class to poverty. Crime had moved in and drugs such as crack cocaine had become popular for many living in East Cleveland. Prostitution was also on the rise with neighborhood hookers looking for money for their next drug fix.
Now divorced and out from under the watchful thumb of the military, Sowell's drinking increased. He was arrested for various crimes including domestic violence and public intoxication throughout the late 80s.
1989 Rape Charge
In 1989, a pregnant woman went to Sowell's home because he told her that her boyfriend was there. Once inside he bound, gagged and choked her, then raped her several times. When he fell asleep the woman was able to escape. Sowell was charged with kidnapping, attempted rape, and rape, but failed to show up to the hearing. An arrest warrant was issued for him, and it would take seven months and another alleged rape before police got him into custody.
He plead guilty to the 1989 attempted rape charge and was sentenced to five to 15 years in prison. During his prison years he was a model prisoner, graduated from high school and attended 12-step alcoholism programs. Regardless, there was no early parole for Sowell. He was released from prison on June 20, 2005.
2005 - 2007
After being released from prison he again returned to his hometown and moved in with his father and stepmother at 12205 Imperial Avenue. He also fulfilled his parole requirements and registered as a sex offender. By March 2006, he was working full-time at a rubber factory, but lost the job in July 2007 after he failed to show up to work for two days. He then turned to selling scrap metal for income and began attending the Cleveland Clinic Foundation where he studied emergency medicine.
Sowell also had a live-in girlfriend. Lori Frazier was the niece of Mayor Frank Johnson and worked as a news reporter. The relationship lasted from 2005 to early 2008. During that time Frazier recalled noticing a foul odor inside the house, but like others in the neighborhood, attributed it to the sausage meat company located nearby.
2008 - 2009
In early 2008 Sowell ended the relationship with Frazier. He also joined and online dating service called alt.com, which describes itself as, "an online adult personals, alternative lifestyle, BDSM, Leather & Fetish Community." There he took on the role of "master" and advertised for "slaves" willing to receive his sexual training and discipline.
During this time complaints about the foul odor permeating the neighborhood was on the rise.
In September 2009, Sowell was again reported to police for rape. A woman who voluntarily accepted an invitation to his home told police that after the two had a few drinks Sowell became agitated and hit, choked then raped her. When the police went to Sowell's home to arrest him, he was not there, but they recognize the overwhelming odor of decomposing bodies. In a locked room in the upstairs of the house the police discovered the bodies of two dead women.
After a short manhunt of two days Sowells was captured and arrested.
Police discovered the bodies of four other women. When police dug around in the yard they discovered an additional three bodies and partial remains of a fourth victim. Inside the home they found a human skull. In all, 11 bodies were found.
- Crystal Dozier, age 38
- Tishana Culver, age 31
- Leshanda Long, age 25
- Michelle Mason, age 45
- Tonia Carmichael, age 53
- Nancy Cobbs, age 43
- Amelda Hunter, age 47
- Telacia Fortson, age 31
- Janice Webb, age 49
- Kim Yvette Smith, age 44