EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio – The police
chief of a Cleveland suburb told searchers Sunday that he believes
there could be one or two more victims in addition to the three bodies
found in the neighborhood earlier.
Police Chief Ralph Spotts told volunteers checking vacant houses to
be alert for smells of rotting. He declined to elaborate on other
possible victims. East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said authorities have
a lot of reasons to suspect there are more, but he refused to say why.
A 35-year-old registered sex offender arrested after a police
standoff Friday is a suspect in the deaths, Norton said. The suspect,
from East Cleveland, has indicated he might have been influenced by
Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 and
sentenced to death, Norton said. As of Sunday morning, the man hadn't
"He said some things that led us to believe that in some way, shape,
or form, Sowell might be an influence," Norton told The Associated
In the most recent case, one body was found Friday in a garage. Two
others were found Saturday -- one in a backyard and the other in the
basement of a vacant house. The bodies, believed to be female, were
found about 100 to 200 yards apart, and authorities believed the victims
were killed in the last six to 10 days.
One woman said she was familiar with the suspect and had seen him
walking through the neighborhood. She said she had told him to stop
talking to her daughter and warned him after seeing him talk to her
"It's very scary, especially when he used to be talking to my
daughter," said Nathenia Crosby, 48. "But I told him he was too old to
be talking to my daughter because she was only 19. When I found out how
old he was, I said, `You need to move on, she's too young.' "
Sowell was found guilty in 2011 of killing 11 women and hiding their
remains around his Cleveland home from June 2007 to July 2009. Police
found their mostly nude bodies throughout the house after a woman
escaped and said she had been raped in there.
Sowell's victims ranged in age from 24 to 52, all were recovering or
current drug addicts and most died of strangulation; some had been
decapitated, and others were so badly decomposed that coroners couldn't
say with certainty how they died.
Prosecutors described him in court papers as "the worst offender in
the history of Cuyahoga County and arguably the State of Ohio." He was
sentenced to death.
In the East Cleveland case, the bodies were each in the fetal
position, wrapped in several layers of trash bags, Norton said. He said
detectives continue to interview the suspect, who used his mother's
address in Cleveland in registering as a sex offender, the mayor said.
"The person in custody, some of the things he said to investigators made us go back today," the mayor said.
The police, FBI, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the
Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department went through yards and abandoned
houses over about three blocks Saturday and used dogs trained to find
cadavers. They planned to expand the search Sunday.
The neighborhood in East Cleveland, which has some 17,000 residents,
has many abandoned houses and authorities want to be thorough, the mayor
"Hopefully, we pray to God, this is it," he said.
The Cleveland area has had its share of gruesome news in recent
years. In May, three women who separately vanished a decade ago were
found captive in a run-down house. Ariel Castro, a former school bus
driver, has been charged with nearly 1,000 counts of kidnap, rape and
Castro is accused of repeatedly restraining the women, sometimes
chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a
van. The charges say one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted
her with a vacuum cord around her neck. He also fathered a daughter with
one captive, authorities said.
He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges.