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DNA links Ohio felon to 2 Cleveland murders, 7 years apart

By Nina Golgowski, CNN
Cleveland's Cold Case Unit started a DNA probe into victims found within 3 miles of Anthony Sowell's home.
Cleveland's Cold Case Unit started a DNA probe into victims found within 3 miles of Anthony Sowell's home.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cold Case Unit "kind of drew a circle" around one serial killer's home
  • Investigation led them to indictment of second man

(CNN) -- A DNA investigation following the discovery of 11 bodies in a Cleveland home has linked a second man to serial killings in the area, prosecutors announced Tuesday.

"This is wild stuff," said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason. "One serial killer leads us to another one."

After the bodies were found at the home of Anthony Sowell in 2009, Cleveland's Cold Case Unit launched a DNA investigation into victims found within a 3-mile radius of the property. The unit matched two cases to felon Joseph Harwell, who is currently serving time on a separate murder charge, Mason said.

Both the victims allegedly tied to Harwell, 27-year-old Mary Thomas and 33-year-old Tondilear Harge, were found raped and fatally strangled, seven years apart from one another. Thomas was three to four months pregnant at the time of the attack, a release by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutors Office says.

Harwell is indicted on 14 counts, including charges of aggravated murder, rape, and kidnapping, according to the prosecutors office.

Believing there could be more victims related to the ones found in the Sowell home, "we kind of drew a circle around his residence," Mason said.

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"There are missing pieces. I don't believe that everybody (Sowell) killed, he put in his house," Mason said. "There's a lot of missing girls that would fit that description."

Harwell is currently serving time for the 1997 murder of 29-year-old Teresa Vinson of Columbus. He is up for parole next year but with Tuesday's additional indictments could now face the death penalty, according to Mason.

"He was kind of a little stunned by it, to say the least," Mason said on Harwell's reaction to his DNA linkage to the two victims. "... He just said I want a lawyer."

Harwell was also convicted of felonious assault in 1989 for attempted strangulation of a 31-year-old woman in east Cleveland and convicted of aggravated robbery in 1979.

Mason's office accuses Harwell of murdering Thomas in 1989 and murdering Harge in 1996, according to a statement.

Sowell, indicted on 85 counts including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, is currently awaiting trial. He has pled not guilty.