Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Sowell: The Cleveland Strangler


Anthony Sowell's residence at 12205 Imperial Avenue
Anthony Sowell's residence at 12205 Imperial Avenue

Neighbors say that the stench on the 12200 block of Cleveland's Imperial Avenue could be unbearable, especially on hot days. It smelled of blood, like something decomposing. It smelled of death. Some thought it was the city sewers; others blamed Ray's Sausage Company, one of the few businesses left on the run-down street.

While the source of the miasma continued to be debated, at least eleven Cleveland women disappeared. All of them were black and poor. Most of them were homeless or lived alone. Many of them had histories of drug and alcohol abuse. Their family members would later say that these circumstances led police to disregard these missing persons cases.

Women continued to disappear and the horrible stench of death lingered over that part of East Cleveland.

Until October 29, 2009, when police, responding to a rape allegation, visited Anthony Sowell's house on Imperial Avenue and East 123rd Street. Sowell, 50, wasn't there, but police found a freshly-dug grave and two dead bodies. In the following days, they would find more bodies in the living room, in crawl spaces, in the backyard and under a basement staircase. They even found a skull in a bucket. And they finally arrested Anthony Sowell—after many missed chances to stop him.

By then police and the F.B.I. had armed themselves with blueprints, infrared devices and old case files to see whether Sowell had killed even more women.


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