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Published: Friday, 12/4/2009

Cleveland man accused of killing 11 pleads insanity

ASSOCIATED PRESS

CLEVELAND - A registered sex offender accused of killing 11 women pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to all charges yesterday, a plea that will leave the legal system to decide whether a sane person can live for years with 10 bodies and a skull.

Anthony Sowell, 50, entered the plea while being arraigned by video from jail. Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Richard Bombik said there was no evidence that Mr. Sowell is insane.

"There seems to be a distinct pattern that he engages in and if he wants to call it madness, there's a distinct method to that madness," he said outside court.

"I don't see anything in his background to suggest that he has a mental illness," Mr. Bombik said. "It's just a, quite frankly, a psychopath."

An insanity defense requires a finding that the person suffers from a severe mental illness and cannot distinguish between right and wrong. "I think he will fail miserably on both accounts," Mr. Bombik said.

Prosecutor Bill Mason said in announcing the 85-count indictment on Tuesday that any heinous crime would raise concerns about an insanity defense but that he was satisfied Mr. Sowell knew what he was doing.

"Based on some of the victims and some of the things he's done, he knew what he was doing was wrong at the time he was doing it," Mr. Mason said.

Mr. Sowell's court-appointed defense attorney, Brian McGraw, attended the arraignment but said later he didn't know if he would continue to handle the case.

Mr. Sowell was indicted Tuesday on charges that include murder, rape, assault, and corpse abuse.

The indictment accuses him of murdering 11 women and attacking three others who survived. He could get the death penalty if convicted of any of the killings.

The prosecutor asked for $14 million bond - $1 million for each victim - but Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Eileen J. Gallagher ordered Mr. Sowell jailed without bond.

Of the 11 alleged murder victims, all black women, 10 have been identified.



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