Skip to main content

Jury recommends death sentence for Cleveland serial killer

By the CNN Wire Staff
Click to play
Jury recommends death for Ohio killer
  • NEW: Jury recommends a death sentence be imposed for each of the slayings
  • Anthony Sowell was convicted last month of 11 counts of aggravated murder
  • Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty
  • He was accused of killing at least 11 women ranging in age from 25 to 52

(CNN) -- Jurors in Cleveland, Ohio, recommended that convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell be sentenced to death on Wednesday.

Cuyahoga County Judge Dick Ambrose read the recommendations in court Wednesday. The judge, who will deliver his ruling at 9 a.m. Friday, can overrule those recommendations and impose a life sentence.

Jurors on July 22 convicted Sowell of 11 counts of aggravated murder and more than 70 other charges, including abusing corpses and kidnapping.

The convictions ended a saga that began in October 2009 with the discovery of the first two victims' remains inside Sowell's home in Cleveland. He eventually was accused of killing at least 11 women ranging in age from 25 to 52.

Prosecutors were seeking the death penalty and the 12-person jury voted unanimously to recommend a death sentence be imposed for each of the slayings.

As part of the sentencing phase, and in addition to testimony from prosecution and defense witnesses, Sowell was able to make a statement on his own behalf without being under oath or facing cross-examination from prosecutors.

In 2009, police found the bodies of 11 women at Sowell's Cleveland home -- all of them strangled to death.

Jury selection began in June for Sowell's trial in Cuyahoga County, Ohio. Sowell pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

Sowell's lawyers asked for life in prison, but parole was not an option because Sowell is classified as a "sexually violent predator."

During the penalty phase of his trial, Sowell said he was "sorry."

"I know that may not sound like much. But I truly am sorry from the bottom of my heart."

During his trial, Sowell maintained a candid banter with members of his defense team as he recounted claims of childhood abuse -- both physical and sexual.

Sowell said his childhood "was like a war," with his mother and grandmother constantly arguing, yelling and "whopping" the children.

He said the lack of nurturing in his home made him unable to stand physical contact or any signs of affection

Sowell said he sought an escape and joined the Marines. He said he married and the couple had a daughter, but that his wife "was touchy-feely" and he never got used to the physical contact.

Eventually their relationship dissolved and in 1985, Sowell began a 15-year sentence for attempted rape.

After his release from jail, Sowell said, his health began to fail.

Sowell said in 2007, he suffered a major heart attack and began hearing voices.

He did not elaborate on the crimes for which he was convicted.

"I don't know what happened, it's not typical of me," Sowell had said. "I can't explain it and I know it's not a lot, but it's all I can give."

There was applause in the courtroom after the sentencing recommendations were read.