crimesider

Exclusive: Anthony Sowell Cruised Hardcore Sex Site; Is Anyone At All Watching Sex Offenders Online?

(Alt.com)
Photo: Anthony Sowell's Alt.com profile.


NEW YORK (CBS) As Cleveland police work to identify the remains of at least 11 bodies found in the home of accused killer and registered sex offender Anthony Sowell, a Crimesider investigation has turned up disturbing information that indicates Sowell and other sex offenders around the country may be free to troll the Internet for sex and potential victims, with little to no oversight from law enforcement.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

Crimesider previously discovered that Sowell cruised a sex fetish Web site where he described himself as a "master" looking for a submissive person "to train."

"If your [sic] submissive and like to please, then this master wants to talk to you," Sowell's profile on alternative lifestyles site Alt.com read. "So get you're (expletive) on over here NOW!"

Sowell set up his profile in July 2005, only one month after his release following a 15-year prison term for the choking and attempted rape of a 21-year-old woman.

What has Mr. Sowell been doing online these last four years, while the bodies apparently piled up in his home?

Cleveland police admit they have no idea.

Cleveland Police Lt. Thomas Stacho would not release details of the investigation but did say that the homicide unit did not know anything about Sowell until Thursday, Oct. 28, when police raided Sowell's home on a new rape allegation, and began making the grisly discoveries. As to whether the investigators are looking into Sowell's online life now, Lt. Stacho would only say that as a regular course of investigation detectives do look into a suspect's online activity.

(Alt.com)
Photo: Anthony Sowell's Alt.com profile.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

As for who was watching Sowell before the secret stash of corpses was uncovered, in Cleveland, at least, that falls under the jurisdiction of the Sex Crimes Unit of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff.

Detective Sue DeChant of the Sex Crimes Unit says that in January of 2000 the state of Ohio started asking offenders to register any email addresses they may have, in addition to their other contact information.

But according to the unit's records, and to no one's surprise, Sowell never registered an email address. DeChant says if the individual doesn't register an email address the Sheriff's Department has no way of verifying whether that information exists.

DeChant was quick to point out that the Sex Crimes Unit has been notified by internet dating sites on a few occasions when a registered sex offender tried to set up an online profile, and she said the Sheriff's Department has taken appropriate action in those cases.

Crimesider reached out to a couple of dating and social networking sites and, given the varying extent of safety protocols, we would have to say that the faith DeChant seems to put in these sites is misplaced.

Match.com spokesperson Amy Canaday said that at this time Match.com does not do any background searches on its members because there is "no 100 percent accurate way to do them." We also contacted eharmony.com but several calls asking for comment were not returned.

By contrast, according to Michelle Collins of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, MySpace has kicked over 90,000 registered sex offenders off their site over the past two years.

Collins told Crimesider that MySpace has a 24/7 system running on their sight that looks for sex offenders using a five-point checklist: first name, last name, date of birth, gender and zip code. She said MySpace compares these identifying criteria with a national list of registered sex offenders, which they access from the identification verification company Sentinel Tech Holding.

Collins said that when a sex offender is identified that person's profile is removed from MySpace and local law enforcement is notified, but this scenario appears to be the exception to the rule.

So, in the disturbing case of Anthony Sowell, do Cleveland police and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department deserve all the blame?

Not so fast, says Jim Tanner, who has worked in the community corrections field for decades, and who is president of KBSolutions, a law enforcement consulting firm.

Tanner told Crimesider police most likely faced legal constraints on how closely they could monitor Sowell. Tanner said that's because the registered sex offender served his full sentence for attempted rape before he was released in 2005.

(Alt.com/Personal Photo)
Photo: Alt.com profile picture of Anthony Sowell.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

"If [a sex offender] serves his full sentence and gets released," Tanner told Crimesider, "all [local law enforcement] can do is have them register as a sex offender and get their contact information." After that, said Tanner, local law enforcement is limited in the supervision they can perform. He said that's because once you have "done your piece" ...that is, served your time... you are basically Joe Citizen again.

If, on the other hand, a sex offender gets released early, Tanner said the individual is then entered into the parole system as well as the sex offender registry, and in such a case, authorities have additional tools to monitor the parolee. For example, he said, police are able to compel paroled sex offenders "to take polygraphs and to install monitoring software on the offenders' laptops that can track where they go online."

And Tanner added this: "I know more than a few offenders who have intentionally served their full sentence because they don't want to be watched when they get out."

According to the Associated Press, Anthony Sowell served his full 15-year sentence for attempted rape, and was repeatedly denied early release into the parole system, because of the viciousness of his crime.

MORE ON CRIMESIDER
PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

MORE ON CRIMESIDER
November 5, 2009 - Anthony Sowell Offered Free Barbecue To Neighbors, As Corpses Rotted in His Home
November 5, 2009 - Family of Anthony Sowell Victim Tonia Carmichael: Police Said "Go Home"
November 4, 2009 - Harry Smith on Anthony Sowell and His Cleveland House of Horrors
November 4, 2009 - Skull in Bucket Found in Anthony Sowell's Home, Say Cleveland Cops
November 3, 2009 - Anthony Sowell Home "Smelled Like a Dead Body" for Years; How Did Cops Miss Victims?
November 2, 2009 - Anthony Sowell House of Horrors: Who's Buried There?
November 2, 2009 - Anthony Sowell Cruised Sex Fetish Site While Dead Bodies Rotted in His Cleveland Home
November 2, 2009 - Six Died Violently at Anthony Sowell's Cleveland Home, Say Police

  • Carlin Miller

Comments

Follow Us

Watch CBSN Live

Watch CBS News anytime, anywhere with the new 24/7 digital news network. Stream CBSN live or on demand for FREE on your TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone.