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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — An Ohio man possibly influenced by a serial killer was charged Monday with aggravated murder after three bodies wrapped in trash bags were found in suburban Cleveland.
Michael Madison, 35, was charged with three counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping. He didn’t enter a plea at a brief court appearance.
Bail was set at $6 million. He also waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Authorities said Madison was a registered sex offender who had spent time in prison for attempted rape. He was arrested Friday after a standoff at his mother’s home.
At a news conference Monday morning, local officials called the killings in East Cleveland “senseless” and said the suspect was “an individual who had no regard for human life.”
Police identified one of the three victims as Angela Deskins, 38, of Cleveland.
The other two have not been identified.
Cuyahoga County’s medical examiner, Dr. Thomas Gilson, said his office had trouble identifying the bodies because they were badly decomposed.
He asked for the public’s help in identifying a woman who had several tattoos, including a red star on her thumb and a flower on her thigh with the name Gene beside it.
Dr. Gilson said fingerprints, dental records, and DNA genetic material would be used to try to identify the other two victims.
On Sunday, local and federal officers searched for other bodies near where the women were found. The search turned up nothing.
The first body was found in a garage Friday.
Two others were found Saturday — one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The bodies, all women, were found about 100 to 200 yards apart.
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On Monday, East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts said: “This is an ongoing investigation. We’re nowhere near done.”
Chief Spotts said he believed the women had been killed in the last 6 to 10 days, but that they could have been missing for longer.
He said it was clear the killings were linked to Madison.
“Everything was in about a 250-foot proximity to where he lives,” Chief Spotts said. “The M.O. is the same: Each body was wrapped in several plastic bags. We definitely believe that he will probably be tied to everything.”
East Cleveland has about 17,500 residents.
“It’s tragic — the unthinkable has happened,” East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said. “We as a community have to deal with it.”
It’s the third recent high-profile case in the Cleveland area that involves missing women.
In May, three women who separately vanished about 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 other crimes and has pleaded not guilty.
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.
In 2009, Anthony Sowell was arrested after a woman escaped from his house and said she had been raped there.
Police found the mostly nude bodies of 11 women throughout the home.
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.
He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to death.
The latest grim discoveries occurred at a time when Cleveland is in many ways reinventing itself.
The city just opened a $465 million convention center and exhibit hall. The Horseshoe Casino has opened in a former department store and parts of downtown are bustling with a vibrant restaurant scene and the first new apartments in decades.
The crimes are affecting the image people have of Cleveland, said East Cleveland resident Ali Bilal.
“They’re thinking it’s one of those places that you don’t want to go,” he said.
Yet ask other people in East Cleveland about the long-term effect of this latest tragedy, and many return to the same thing: At least it’s bringing people together.
“Maybe after all this, maybe this will bring a change to East Cleveland,” Vanessa Jones said Sunday. “Hopefully. Pray for that.”