Killing with Impunity

By now you have probably heard, police have found ten bodies inside and east Cleveland home.

The resident, Anthony Sowell, was arrested by Cleveland police earlier this week after a short manhunt. Sowell, a convicted rapist, was found not far from the home.


He previously served 15 years for rape and was being monitored by police when he was accused of raping and strangling a neighborhood woman he lured into his house with an offer of alcohol.

For days, investigators have been dismantling Sowell’s home, finding remains throughout. Neighbors reported a foul smell, which was mistakenly attributed to a sausage shop, located next door.

I think everyone is wondering, how could this happen? How does a man kill ten people, six identified so far as women, without being discovered?

The case has raised some questions about the police response to the rape report and the ongoing monitoring Sowell was supposed to receive as a sex offender. From what I’ve read, this doesn’t appear to be a case of police negligence.

Police followed up on the rape report, but had a difficult time connecting with the victim. Meanwhile, he was subject to regular home visits, one shortly before his arrest.

On the other hand, it does raise the question, are Cleveland police taking crime reports seriously in poor, African American neighborhoods?

Best-Selling book “The Devil in the White City” tells the story of H.H. Homes, a serial killer who took advantage of the excitement surrounding the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair to murder nine women.

It’s clear that in this case a bad man was able to take advantage of the chaos resulting from the foreclosure crisis and extreme poverty that is plaguing Cleveland.

How sad for those women, mothers and daughters.

How sad for the others who wait to hear about missing loved ones.

How sad for a community whose fabric has been blown apart.



Filed under Crime, Featured

4 responses to “Killing with Impunity

  1. Sean Posey

    “It’s clear that in this case a bad man was able to take advantage of the chaos resulting from the foreclosure crisis and extreme poverty that is plaguing Cleveland.”

    The exact same thing is happening in the Youngstown area (minus the murders.) There have been a series of rapes in this area where both women and young girls have been abducted off the street–two were on their way to or from school–and raped in abandoned buildings. It’s a serious problem that endangers the safety of both women and young girls in this area. Perhaps the only real answer is the increase of neighborhood block watches. Without constant vigilance it seems that this kind of thing will continue. It’s clear that this is beyond the scope of the police department, especially in economically compromised areas where there is a variety of crime taking place.

  2. Have you read any of the articles from other newspapers like NYTimes and the LA Times? My friend called me to tell me she had seen this on TV… in Sacremento. A classmate who works at the PeeDee was telling me they’d had a Danish television station call them.

    It’s really scary to think Sowell lived just about a mile from me. 😦

  3. Well I don’t think you need to be scared. Sowell preyed on low-income black women, many with substance abuse histories and criminal records, so the most marginalized members of society.

    The thing about this case is, it’s hard to imagine it happening in Bay Village or Beachwood, or even Shaker Square. The sad circumstances of the neighborhood and the relative powerlessness of his victims were his cover.

    I was thinking about this this morning, and if I disappeared, my friends and family would probably be on alert within a few hours. In 12 hours people would be combing the neighborhoods.

    Where was these women’s safety net? As a society, we failed them.

  4. Also, Sean, it reminds me of Juarez, Mexico, where more than 400 women have disappeared in the last ten years.

    I think one of our failings in this case is not taking rape seriously enough as a crime. Sowell did 15 years, which but our legal standards is about right. I was just reading however, that Cavs player Delonte West faces 18 years on gun charges.

    18 years for possessing guns; 15 years for rape.
    Is that justice?

    Too many police officers and judges fail to treat rape claims with the seriousness they deserve. I honestly think this is because we live in a patriarchal society and there is a tendency to treat claims of rape with suspicion instead of swift action.

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