Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Sowell: The Cleveland Strangler

The Women

    

By mid-November 2009, police had found and identified the remains of ten victims.

Victims from top left to bottom right: Tonia Carmichael, Nancy Cobbs, Tishana Culver, Crystal Dozier
Victims from top left to bottom right: Tonia
Carmichael, Nancy Cobbs, Tishana Culver,
Crystal Dozier

Tonia Carmichael, 52, of nearby Warrensville, disappeared in the fall of 2008 after telling a friend she was going out for "some fun," which the friend had assumed meant a crack binge. Her family reported her missing, but they said police didn't seem to take their report seriously even when her car was found abandoned off East 115th Street. Police reportedly checked abandoned buildings in the area and showed her photo to residents and bar patrons in February 2009. Her body was found buried in Sowell's back yard. She had been strangled.

Nancy Cobbs, 43, worked construction. She had three children and five grandchildren — and a history of drug abuse. Cobbs lived on Griffing Avenue, a half mile from Sowell, with one of her daughters. She disappeared in April 2009. In June her family reported her missing to the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, who did not contact the police until August.

Tishana Culver, 31, had been working as a beautician and lived just a few blocks away from Sowell. She had history of drug abuse and a series of drug convictions, which perhaps explains why her family thought Culver was in jail or maybe living with her boyfriend in Akron. They didn't even know she was dead.

Crystal Dozier, mother of seven, lived on Sowell's block. She disappeared in 2007, but no one reported her missing. Her mother, Florence Bray, thinks Sowell tore down the fliers her family put up.

Victims from top left to bottom right: Telacia Fortson, Michelle Mason, Kim Yvette Smith, Janice Webb
Victims from top left to bottom right: Telacia
Fortson, Michelle Mason, Kim Yvette Smith,
Janice Webb

Telacia Fortson, a 31-year-old Cleveland mother of three, disappeared in June 2009. She attended church regularly and liked flower arranging. A drug problem cost her custody of her three children, and perhaps her life. She was not reported missing until publicity about the bodies in Sowell's house reached her family. Her mother, Inez "Brownie" Fortson, overwhelmed with grief, had to be hospitalized after hyperventilating at the funeral.

Amelda "Amy" Hunter, 47, went missing in April 2009. She had three children and liked to read and do crossword puzzles. She often had drinks with Sowell at his house. She was not reported missing until authorities started removing bodies from Sowell's house. According to police records a full investigation was conducted when her family reported her missing.

Police haven't found Leshanda Long's body, just her skull. She was 25 years old.

Michelle Mason, 45, lived nearby on East 121st Street. She disappeared in October 2008. Her family put up flyers, which her mother, Adlean Atterberry, thinks Sowell tore down. A mother of two, Mason enjoyed the arts and liked to travel. She had an arrest record, which, Atterberry believes, is why police dismissed Mason's disappearance, even when she stopped cashing her social security checks.

Kim Yvette Smith, 44, was an artist and a cosmetologist, who had worked as a back-up singer for Gerald Levert. Like most of Sowell's victims she had a history of drug abuse. Smith, however, was not reported missing until November 2, the day authorities finished removing bodies from Sowell's house.

Janice Webb, 48, had a son and three grandchildren. Friends called her a natural comedian. She visited the neighborhood often before disappearing in June 2009. Her family reported her missing in August.

Police and F.B.I. launched investigations into other potential Sowell victims.

 

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