APNewsBreak: Judge OKs police interrogations of Cleveland man charged with killing 11 women

By Meghan Barr, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

APNewsBreak: Interrogations OK in Ohio bodies case

CLEVELAND — A judge ruled on Tuesday that prosecutors can present in court the recorded police interrogations of a Cleveland man charged with killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his home, rejecting the defense’s argument that he was too mentally unstable to submit to questioning.

Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose denied a motion by Anthony Sowell, 50, that sought to keep statements he made to police when he was arrested last year out of court. Sowell’s lawyers had claimed that he was incapable of voluntarily waiving his Miranda rights upon his arrest due to “his mental state.”

The defense pointed to one part of the 12-hour interrogation, conducted on two separate days, in which Sowell told officers that he heard “voices” telling him not to enter the room on the third floor of his home, where some of the bodies were found.

Sowell told officers that he didn’t remember what happened to the women that “he had over to his house,” according to the ruling. He also told police that he had confusing dreams and suffered from depression.

Ambrose wrote that the defense had not shown that Sowell was suffering from a psychosis when he waived his rights or that he was unable to make “free and rational choices.” Sowell clarified during the interrogation that the “voices” he mentioned referred to only one voice, and that voice occurred in his dreams and “in conjunction with past events,” Ambrose wrote.

Ambrose ruled that Sowell did not say anything or exhibit any behavior on video that would indicate he was hearing voices or experiencing delusions during the interrogation. Sowell was given adequate warning of his Miranda rights and waived those rights in the presence of police officers and in writing on at least two occasions, the judge wrote.

Sowell has pleaded not guilty to charges including aggravated murder, rape, assault and corpse abuse. Prosecutors say he lured the women to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Since the bodies were found, he has been charged with attacking five other women who survived.

Ambrose noted that the defense has still not yet completed its own mental health evaluation of Sowell, even though funding for a mental health expert was approved in December 2009.

The ruling also sheds some light on the sequence of events that occurred after the decomposing bodies were found in Sowell’s home in an impoverished city neighborhood. During an evidentiary hearing in July, several police officers told the judge about what happened when Sowell was taken into custody on Oct. 31 on an open arrest warrant for rape — two days after the first bodies were discovered in a freshly dug grave in his backyard.

Police Sgt. Ron Ross testified that at first, officers were not convinced that Sowell matched the description and photograph they were using to confirm his identity, so he was taken to a nearby police station.

Sowell refused to cooperate when officers tried to fingerprint him and “balled up his hands,” Ross told the judge. He said Sowell then told the officers: “I’m the guy you are looking for.”

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