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Published: Thursday, 11/5/2009

11th woman discovered in Cleveland death house


CLEVELAND - The number of women found dead in the home of a convicted sex offender rose to 11 yesterday as police announced their first identification of one of the victims.

The victim, Tonia Carmichael, was 52 when she disappeared last November, Cleveland police said. She lived in Warrensville Heights, a Cleveland suburb, but her car was found about a mile from the Imperial Avenue home of the sex offender, Anthony Sowell, police said.

The victim's mother, Donnita Carmichael, told the (Cleveland) Plain Dealer: "We expected the worst when these bodies started popping up. We knew she could be one of them."

The remains were buried in Sowell's backyard, police said. It appeared that Ms. Carmichael had been strangled.

Lt. Thomas Stacho, a police spokesman, said the coroner's office had determined that a skull found in a bucket in the basement of Sowell's home belonged to an 11th victim, not one of 10 other women whose bodies had been found.

In his initial court appearance, Sowell was denied bond yesterday. He faces five murder charges and one charge of rape, with more charges likely, police said.

"After 26 years on this bench, this is by far the most serious set of allegations I've ever faced," Ronald Adrine, a municipal court judge, said as he bound the case over to a county grand jury.

Sowell, 50, is likely to be charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty, an assistant county prosecutor, Brian P. Murphy, said in court.

Authorities found the remains of an 11th woman inside the home of Anthony Sowell. A search for victims has been expanded to abandoned houses within a half-mile radius of Sowell's home. Authorities found the remains of an 11th woman inside the home of Anthony Sowell. A search for victims has been expanded to abandoned houses within a half-mile radius of Sowell's home.

Concerned that they might find more bodies, police officers and sheriff's deputies planned to search unsecured abandoned houses within a half-mile radius of Sowell's house, Deputy Police Chief Edward Tomba said.

There have been foreclosures in the neighborhood and many homes are boarded up.

The neighborhood is the type of place where women can disappear almost in plain sight. It is an area where crack users sneak into vacant houses to do drugs, have sex, or steal copper pipes and wiring to make a few bucks.

Where no one asks a lot of questions, even about the smell of rotting meat that came when the wind blew a certain way.

No one is sure how long Sowell, a registered sex offender who would offer free barbecue to the neighbors, had been living in his three-story house with corpses lying around.

But if Sowell's street is seedy, it's far from abandoned. Occupied homes are sandwiched between vacant, boarded-up houses and scattered small businesses with a steady stream of customers.

"We're not talking about some desolate area, some abandoned barn," said Councilman Zach Reed, whose mother lives a block away. "How did somebody get away with this in a residential neighborhood?"

Relatives of presumed victims charge that police ignored their missing person reports.

Mr. Reed is demanding an inquiry into how crime reports in the neighborhood were handled.

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