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Defense rests in trial of accused Ohio serial killer

By the CNN Wire Staff
If convicted, Anthony Sowell could be executed. He's using an insanity defense against the 85 counts he faces.
If convicted, Anthony Sowell could be executed. He's using an insanity defense against the 85 counts he faces.
  • The defense calls no witnesses and presents no evidence
  • Prosecutors rested their case Monday
  • Anthony Sowell is accused of killing 11 women from 2007 to 2009

Read more about the case from CNN affiliate WOIO.

(CNN) -- The defense rested Tuesday in the case of alleged Ohio serial killer Anthony Sowell, who is accused of sexually assaulting, killing and dismembering 11 Cleveland-area women between 2007 and 2009.

The defense called no witnesses and presented no evidence during the trial, according to CNN affiliate WOIO. Prosecutors rested their case against Sowell on Monday.

Opening statements in the trial were held June 27. If convicted, Sowell could face the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to the 85 counts he faces.

Investigators at Sowell's home discovered the remains of the 11 women -- ages 25 to 52 -- beginning in October 2009. Since then, other women have come forward alleging that Sowell attacked them, too.

Prosecutors focus on victims, crime scene

In April 2010, prosecutors handed down a 10-count indictment against Sowell in connection with the alleged rape of a 34-year-old woman in his home.

Sowell's lawyers have declined previous requests by CNN to explain their case, and the suspect has not been interviewed. But in January 2010, attorney John Parker told The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland that he felt police violated Sowell's Miranda rights as he was being interrogated.

Sowell grew up in East Cleveland, joined the Marines at age 18, and traveled to California, North Carolina and Japan, authorities said. People who interacted with him after his 2005 release from prison, where he had served 15 years for attempted rape, said he appeared to be "a normal guy," known locally for selling scrap metal.

His inconspicuous two-story home sits in a dilapidated neighborhood known as Mount Pleasant, where one in five homes was in foreclosure and at least a third of residents got food stamps, according to a 2010 study by Case Western Reserve University's Center on Urban Poverty and Community Development.

Neighbors and even a city councilman had failed to realize that the stench wafting in the area around Sowell's home was from human flesh, not a byproduct of a nearby sausage factory.

Moreover, the disappearance of the 11 women -- many of whom lived nearby -- went largely unnoticed for almost two years, with only four of them even being reported missing. Many of his alleged victims struggled with drug addiction at some point in their lives, with court records showing that many resorted to stealing and prostitution to support their habits.

In late 2008, Gladys Wade told police that a man in a gray hoodie offered her beer, and when she declined, he punched her in the face several times. Wade said that he then tried to rape her, dragging her toward his home, adding that she got out only after "gouging his face."

Police investigated Wade's complaint, with one police report noting blood droplets on Sowell's walls and steps. But officers told CNN affiliate WKYC that the case was dropped after Wade declined to press charges.

After Wade's complaint, six more women disappeared.

Then, on September 23, 2009, a 36-year-old Cleveland woman told police a story eerily similar to those of Wade and the woman whose 1989 account led to Sowell's first conviction for attempted rape. She said he'd invited her into his home for beer, punched her in the face, then began performing oral sex on her -- releasing her only after she promised to return the next day.

Sowell was then arrested. More than a month later, police entered his house and found two bodies rotting in his attic. These were the first of the 11 bodies they'd eventually discover, in various states of decay, on his property.

Most of the women whose remains were found in and around Sowell's home were strangled by ligature -- which can include a string, cord or wire -- and at least one was strangled by hand, officials said. Seven still had ligatures wrapped around their necks. A skull is all that remains of one victim. It was found wrapped in a paper bag and stuffed in a bucket in the home's basement.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason has said that his cold case unit is reviewing unsolved murders that occurred when Sowell lived in Cleveland and East Cleveland to see if there are any connections. Mason said the group is working its way through 75 cases.

CNN's Rachel Garrett contributed to this report.