The case against Anthony Sowell is grounded in his Cleveland backyard.
There, in October 2009, investigators unearthed remains of five of the 11 women–ages 25 to 52–found on Sowell’s property.
On Monday, jury selection for Sowell’s trial begins in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Sowell faces 85 counts related to his alleged rape, murder and dismembering of the women between 2007 and 2009–charges to which he’s pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Since the bodies were discovered, other women have come forward alleging that Sowell also attacked them.
Sowell grew up in East Cleveland, joined the Marines at age 18 and traveled to California, North Carolina and Japan, authorities said. People who interacted with him after his 2005 release from prison, where he had served 15 years for attempted rape, said he appeared to be “a normal guy,” known locally for selling scrap metal.
Neighbors and even a city councilman had failed to realize that the stench wafting in the area around Sowell’s home was human flesh, not a byproduct of a nearby sausage factory.
Sowell was then arrested. More than a month later, police entered his house and found two bodies rotting in his attic. These were the first of the 11 bodies they’d eventually discover, in various states of decay, on his property.
Most of the women whose remains were found in and around Sowell’s home were strangled by ligature–which can include a string, cord or wire–and at least one was strangled by hand, officials said. Seven still had ligatures wrapped around their necks. A skull is all that remains of one victim. It was found wrapped in a paper bag and stuffed in a bucket in the home’s basement.