Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Anthony Sowell: The Cleveland Strangler

Right Under Their Noses


The people at Ray's Sausage Company weren't the only ones who knew that something was amiss in the neighborhood.

Fawcett Bess, 57, owns Bess Chicken and Pizza across the street from Ray's. He'd always found Anthony Sowell polite and respectful, even if he did sometimes smell pretty bad. In September 2009, However, Bess says, he talked to a woman who told him that Sowell had attacked her—and that police had done nothing but take notes when she reported the incident.

Anthony Sowell
Anthony Sowell

A few weeks later, Bess says, he saw a naked Sowell in the bushes bordering his house, standing over a naked woman and beating her. Bess called 911. Bess said that an ambulance took the woman to the hospital, but police, who didn't get to the scene until hours later, did not even try to talk to Sowell, who was still inside his house.

Lt. Stacho denied the allegation saying that police fully investigated each report connected with Sowell. He maintains that police fully investigated all missing person reports. The victims' families disagree, saying that they were brushed aside.

When Barbara Carmichael tried to report that her daughter, Tonia Carmichael, was missing, she says police turned her away, saying that her daughter would come back when she ran out of drugs.

The police reportedly turned away Sandy Drain, 65, away when she tried to file a missing person report for her niece, Gloria Walker. She put up flyers, organized search parties, even hired a psychic. Drain says she got exactly what she expected from cops in her neighborhood.

Mary Mason, whose sister Michelle Mason also disappeared, says that police had been ignoring neighborhood complaints about missing women for years, and that they just weren't concerned with missing black women with a reputation for drug use.

Stacho insists that the cops followed up leads, including obtaining dental records and tracing license plates. Police advocates point out that law enforcement typically investigates missing adults when there is a clear indication of foul play, but do not chase down known drug users, if, as in these cases, they think the person might just be on a bender.

If the expressed fears and complaints of the victims' families didn't do anything to induce police to investigate Sowell, neither did the existing precautions regarding registered sex offenders.

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