Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Sowell: The Cleveland Strangler

A Known Sex Offender

       

Anthony Sowell
Anthony Sowell

Anthony Sowell moved back to the three-story white house at 12205 Imperial Avenue in 2005. It's in a marginal neighborhood on Cleveland's east side, where well-kept working-class homes sit beside boarded-up houses and abandoned businesses. The house, which had belonged to his deceased father, was cheap. His step-mother lived there with him until she was hospitalized in 2007. Sowell would sometimes blame the house's horrible smell on her.

The house was for Sowell an improvement over his previous residence. He'd spent the previous 15 years in a state prison after pleading guilty to rape. In 1989, according to prosecutors, he brought a victim to his residence on Page Avenue, choked her, tied her up with a necktie, threatened to kill her and then raped her twice. He told her no one would hear her scream. At a parole hearing, he blamed his behavior on his drinking.

Sowell was arrested during another rape investigation while awaiting trial in 1990, but the victim ultimately refused to cooperate with investigators.

Released from prison in 2005, Sowell found work in a factory, but was laid off in 2007. After his unemployment payments ran out, he made change by selling scrap metal and recycling. When that wasn't enough, he'd bum change from guys at the corner store to buy his cheap tipple of choice, 40 oz. bottles of King Cobra Malt Liquor, but he would pay everyone back by having a barbecue.

He was divorced before his conviction, and had a daughter, but, once released, made no effort to get back in touch with his ex-wife or daughter. He did, however, frequent a fetish site called Alt.com to look for sex partners. He set up his account in 2005, just after he got out of prison. Listing himself as 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds and with a distinctive facial scar, he described himself as a "master" looking for a "submissive," and as a partyer, a people person.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson

He also somehow formed a relationship with Lori Frazier, the niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. She lived with him from 2005 to 2007. During that time he would lure other women in off the street by offering them alcohol or drugs. Some he assaulted, but when they reported it to police little was done. Others, it now seems, didn't make it out at all.

Meanwhile, the stench endured. The city routinely flushed its gutters, drains and sewers in the area. Ray's Sausage Company passed all its inspections; owner Ray Cash kept his business bleach-clean. As Ray's sister and partner Renee Cash noted, they wouldn't have much of a business if their meat smelled like that. The smell in the neighborhood was so bad that Ray's workers couldn't stand it unless they kept the windows closed, since the inside of the plant smelled just fine.

As a registered sex offender, Sowell was required to check in with the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office once a year. This was upped to once every 90 days in 2008. It didn't help his victims.

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