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Preying on vulnerable individuals, Anthony Sowell, notoriously nicknamed the Cleveland Strangler, was ultimately behind the murders of 11 Black women.
Sowell’s depraved crimes are chronicled in chilling detail in the two-hour Oxygen special “Snapped Notorious: The Cleveland Strangler." The gruesome slayings, which occurred in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood Sowell lived in, have left an indelible mark on Ohio’s second-largest city.
From 2007 to 2009, the killer lured women to his home with the promise of drugs and alcohol before raping and strangling them. He then hid the decomposing bodies in and around his house on Imperial Avenue. He was caught after Cleveland police showed up to his home on October 29, 2009 after a woman Sowell had attacked had escaped and eventually gone to authorities, Cleveland.com reported in 2019.
Authorities had warrants to arrest Sowell and to search his house, where they found two decaying corpses. The following day, officials discovered the remains of three more victims.
Many residents in the neighborhood had erroneously blamed the terrible stench that rose up from the decomposing remains on a sausage business next door to Sowell’s home.
Sowell was arrested on October 31, 2011.
Investigators eventually found and identified the remains of 11 women: Tonia Carmichael, Nancy Cobbs, Tishana Culver, Crystal Dozier, Telacia Fortson, Amelda Hunter, Leshanda Long, Michelle Mason, Kim Yvette Smith, Diane Turner, and Janice Webb.
In 2011, Sowell was found guilty and sentenced to death for the murders. However, he never faced lethal injection: Earlier this year, on February 8, he died at Franklin Medical Center, a prison hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The cause of death was an unspecified terminal illness.
Sowell, 61, had been receiving end-of-life care the Associated Press reported at the time, although the outlet noted the cause of death was not COVID-19.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley issued the following statement on Sowell’s death, reported Fox8.com: “My thoughts and prayers at this time are with the family and friends of the victims of this monster. This community will never fully recover from the horror that occurred on Imperial Avenue ... My hope is that law enforcement and the criminal justice system have learned from the mistakes that allowed this diabolical predator to go undetected for so long."
The state prison system notified the families of Sowell’s death.
Joann Moore, sister of Janice Webb, said that “the ultimate goal was to see this through and see he got justice,” reported AP. “That was something else we were able to see, him take his last breath.”
She described Sowell’s mass murders as “a tragic story for the city of Cleveland … I still miss my sister.”
“I am glad he is dead. God made it happen,” said Donnita Carmichael, daughter of Tonia Carmichael, reported Fox8.com. “I will never, ever, ever forgive him.”
To learn more about the case and to hear firsthand accounts from women who survived dangerous encounters with Sowell, watch Oxygen special “Snapped Notorious: The Cleveland Strangler."
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