Ohio serial killer case migrates overseas for clues
By Thomas J Sheeran
CLEVELAND — The search for victims of a suspected serial killer is expanding far beyond his Ohio home and yard, where police have found the remains of at least 11 people.
The FBI is reviewing its national database of unsolved crimes for any clues to possible connections to Anthony Sowell, particularly at locations where he served in the military, said Scott Wilson, an FBI spokesman in Cleveland.
Sowell, 50, was in the Marines from 1978 to 1985 and spent time in California, the Carolinas as well as Japan, Wilson said.
FBI behavioral specialists visited the Sowell property in Cleveland over the weekend and will try to develop a profile of the killings that could help determine if investigations need to be opened or reopened elsewhere, Wilson said.
Sowell was stationed at various times at Parris Island, S.C.; Cherry Point, N.C.; Okinawa, Japan; and Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Investigators in the city of East Cleveland also are reviewing three unsolved slayings in 1988 and 1989, after Sowell returned there from service in the Marines and before he went to prison for attempted rape, said Sgt. Ken Bolton, a detective for the police department in the Cleveland suburb.
Sowell has been charged in Cleveland with five counts of aggravated murder. He was indicted Monday on one count of attempted murder, two counts of rape, two counts of kidnapping and two counts of felonious assault in an alleged attack Sept. 22 that led to the search of his home that ultimately turned up the bodies.
Sowell has asked for a court-appointed attorney, but court records don't reflect that one has been chosen.
Police in Coronado, Calif., near Camp Pendleton, said a woman told them she saw Sowell's mug shot on TV and was sure he had raped her in 1979. Officers talked with the woman but were unable to confirm her story because rape investigation records from 30 years ago have been thrown out, said Jesus Ochoa, Coronado police commander.
"She seemed credible," he said.
Near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown and his deputies are checking old paper records for any unsolved killings or disappearances while Sowell was at the base from May 20, 1978, to July 12, 1978. He said computerized court files show that Sowell never got so much as a traffic ticket while in the area, but the paper search is slow going.
Near Parris Island, where Sowell did his initial Marine training, Beaufort County authorities said they were waiting to be told the specific dates Sowell lived in the area before going back over any cases.
The unsolved East Cleveland slayings of Rosalind Garner, Carmella Prater and Mary Thomas will be checked against the autopsies of the bodies found at Sowell's home to check for similarities, Bolton said.
"It's for the family's closure," he said. "They are unsolved and they happened around the time that he was not in jail."
No connections had been made by Monday, he said.
The Cuyahoga County coroner's office on Monday identified the remains of two additional women - Janice Webb, 48, and Kim Yvette Smith, 44 - found at Sowell's home, according to Cleveland police Lt. Thomas Stacho.
Webb, of Cleveland, was last seen June 3 and reported missing Aug. 2. Webb had a son and three grandchildren and had struggled with alcohol and drug addictions, said her sister, JoAnn Moore.
"She was loving and regardless of her addiction, she knew that we loved her unconditionally," Moore said.
Police said they had searched for Webb by checking with friends and relatives and at hospitals and shelters. Webb's boyfriend, Ronnie Bowie, said he last saw her in June when she left to visit family and friends in Sowell's neighborhood.
Smith, also of Cleveland, was last seen Jan. 1, police said.
Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave Oct. 29 at the house on the city's east side. The number grew to 11 by Tuesday.
Investigators returned Monday to the house, which has been cordoned off as a crime scene under 24-hour guard, but there was no immediate word on their activities inside.