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Family of Anthony Sowell Victim Tonia Carmichael: Police Said "Go Home"

(National Center for Missing Adults)
Photo: Tonia Carmichael.

CLEVELAND (CBS/AP) As police say they have identified Cleveland mom Tonia Carmichael as the first of at least 11 bodies found in the home of Anthony Sowell, the woman's family is outraged that police didn't take their cries for help seriously a year ago.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

"They told us to go home, and as soon as the drugs are gone, she'll show up," said Markiesha Carmichael-Jacobs, whose 53-year-old mother, Tonia, a drug addict, vanished Nov. 10, 2008. Police identified her Wednesday as one of the victims, saying her body was found buried in the backyard with marks indicating strangulation.

The man who lives in the home, 50-year-old registered sex offender Anthony Sowell, was ordered held without bond Wednesday on five counts of aggravated murder.

"It's hard to imagine," Carmichael-Jacobs said as she stood shivering on a street corner across from Sowell's home Wednesday, "but that's what they told us to our face: 'She'll turn up."'

No one is sure how long Sowell had been living in his three-story house with corpses lying around, many of them black women who had been strangled. Police have recovered bodies in the living room, crawl spaces and backyard graves from the home on Imperial Avenue. There was even a skull in a bucket in the basement.

(Ohio Attorney General's Office)
Photo: Anthony Sowell.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

"There's this fear that the neighborhood has been forgotten," said the Rev. Rodney Maiden of Providence Baptist Church.

Cleveland police don't take missing-persons cases seriously if they involve people clinging to the lower rungs of society, said Judy Martin, a leading local anti-crime advocate. Councilman Zach Reed is demanding an investigation into how crime reports in the neighborhood have been handled.

Mayor Frank Jackson refused to second-guess officers but said he expected the police chief would evaluate the situation and make adjustments if necessary.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said the city takes about 10 missing-person reports a day but typically clears at least 90 percent within 48 hours.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brian Murphy called Sowell "an incredibly dangerous threat to the public" and said he could face the death penalty if convicted of five aggravated murder counts. Sowell also faces charges of rape, felonious assault and kidnapping after a Sept. 22 attack on a woman at his home. She survived.

PICTURES: Anthony Sowell's Home of Horror

MORE ON CRIMESIDER
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

  • Edecio Martinez

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