Rape Arrest Warrant Turns Up Six Decomposing Bodies


Cleveland, OH—Authorities who went to the home of a convicted rapist to arrest him on further charges of rape and felonious assault didn’t find the accused – but they did find a makeshift grave in the stairs under the basement of the home, as well as six badly decomposed bodies.

Anthony Sowell, 50, had spent 15 years in jail after being convicted of choking and raping a 21-year-old woman in 1989, according to authorities. He was imprisoned from 1990 to 2005, and neighbors said he was not gainfully employed but made his living as a “scrapper,” collecting scrap metal from the neighborhoods and selling it, and as a panhandler.

On Thursday, officers who went to Sowell’s home to issue arrest warrants in a sexual assault investigation discovered two bodies on the home’s third floor, as well as what appeared to be a freshly dug grave in the basement. Investigators returned to the property on Friday and found additional bodies: one more in the basement grave, two in a crawl space, and one in a shallow outdoor grave – bringing the total up to six.

All of the victims found in the home were female. Two were described as African-American, but the race of the other bodies had not yet been determined. All five of them had apparently been strangled. The sixth, according to investigators, was too badly decomposed to determine the cause of death. The bodies could have been on the premises for “weeks, if not months or years,” said Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller III.

None of the bodies have yet been identified, nor have their ages been established.

As a convicted sex offender, Sowell was required to check in with law enforcement officials once every 90 days. It’s unclear how he could have perpetrated these crimes while under such close scrutiny by the law.

A woman who was acquainted with Sowell accused him of rape and felonious assault a month before the gruesome discoveries were made. The accusation is what led authorities to conduct the search which uncovered the bodies.

Police are checking the cold case reports to find similarities between either the 1989 rape or the more recent charges against Sowell, in an attempt to identify some of the victims. They have also established a temporary command post in the east-side, inner-city neighborhood of older homes and corner stores, to gather information on missing persons or other unsolved crimes that may help lead them to a break in this case.

Sowell was not arrested at the time of the discoveries, but he was apprehended on Saturday and detained by law enforcement.


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