CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland detectives met Sunday with the families of missing local women to gather photographs and biographical information that will help them focus their investigation and identify the six bodies found Thursday and Friday in a home on the Southeast side.
All of the bodies found inside the home of convicted rapist Anthony Sowell, 50, have been identified as female, and five died by strangulation, according to police. The last died by unknown causes.
Detectives will focus the investigation on missing people in Sowell’s neighborhood and then expand to other areas in the city, Police Chief Michael McGrath said.
The bodies were found inside and outside the duplex Sowell had shared with his stepmother since 2005, when he was released from prison after serving 15 years for raping a 24-year-old woman in East Cleveland. Sowell was arrested Saturday about a mile from his house.
Police will scrutinize missing-person reports made after Sowell’s release from prison.
McGrath said Sowell’s history shows he preyed on people close to him.
“He had a specific motive,” the chief said. “His victims that we know about met him on the street, and he got them to his house.”
Police set up a command post near Sowell’s house Saturday and urged people to come forward with information on missing relatives or friends.
Only four people have provided information, police said.
Janice Webb, 49, disappeared on June 3. She frequented the area near Sowell’s house and battled a drug addiction, relatives said.
Her sister, Audrey Webb, said the family fears the worst after learning that all the victims found in the house were female, because Janice was last seen in that area.
The family gave photographs of Janice and biographical information to police on Saturday.
“I can’t hardly sit still,” Webb said. “My family is rallying together. We never imagined something like this. This is unthinkable.”
Investigators will continue collecting personal belongings today, like hair brushes and toothbrushes of the missing to obtain their DNA.
Police ask that anyone with information on missing local women visit the 4th District police station at 9333 Kinsman Road from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“Citizens are encouraged to take a photo and biographical information related to any missing or suspected missing persons to the 4th District,” police spokesman Lt. Thomas Stacho said.
The bodies are in various stages of decomposition. Dental records and DNA tests will be used to identify them.
As investigators worked around the clock, community activists and families of the missing planned a vigil for this evening near the house at East 123rd Street and Imperial Avenue.
Judy Martin of Survivors/Victims of Tragedy said uncertain families will gather to console each other and honor the dead.
“They are deeply anguished and horrified at the thought that one of the bodies could be their missing loved one, while at the same time looking for answers.”
Courtesy of Plain Dealer