CLEVELAND – When arrested, a man charged with killing 11 women casually acknowledged to police that bodies were buried in his backyard, an officer testified Thursday at the suspect's murder trial.
Sgt. Ronald Ross testified that Anthony Sowell, 51, initially denied he was the man wanted in the discovery of bodies at his house in late 2009 but then acknowledged his identity.
"I'm Anthony," the suspect said, according to Ross' testimony. "I'm the guy you're looking for."
Testimony in Sowell's trial began last week. He has pleaded not guilty to killing the women, who were poor and lured to Sowell's home by drugs and alcohol, police say. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
Based on a community tip, Sowell was arrested on the street in his inner-city Cleveland neighborhood on Oct. 31, 2009, two days after police searched his house on a sex-assault complaint and began finding decomposing bodies.
After acknowledging his identity, Ross testified, Sowell began sweating profusely and fell to his knees. "He just stated he just wanted to die," Ross testified.
When officers asked Sowell if the seven bodies found on his property were the extent of the victims, he responded, "I think so," Ross testified.
Pressed if there were any more bodies in the backyard beyond the one already dug up, Ross said Sowell responded, "Oh, those too."
Eventually four more were found buried.
Sowell's use of the plural "those" caught the attention of officers, Ross said. It "kind of got us all concerned," Ross testified.
Sowell's sister, Tressa Garrison, testified earlier that he became lethargic, his face became droopy and he developed sleeping problems following a 2007 pacemaker implant and his introduction to crack cocaine by his girlfriend. The sister also said Sowell suffers from depression, which she called a family trait.
Garrison said she knew nothing about the bodies found in Sowell's house until police searched it.
On the first day of the search, Garrison said a neighbor of Sowell's arrived at her house, where Sowell was visiting, and mentioned that police were at the Sowell house. The two left but soon returned, Garrison testified.
The testimony reinforced the prosecution contention that Sowell was aware of the police search at his home and then fled.
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