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Serial killer Anthony Sowell: "I'm sorry"

Serial killer Anthony Sowell breaks down at sentencing
Anthony Sowell, left, and defense attorney Rufus Sims verdict is read July 22, 2011 AP/Marvin Fong

(CBS/WOIO/AP) CLEVELAND - Serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted of killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his property, apologized Tuesday in front of relatives of his victims and the jury that will decide whether to recommend the death penalty.

Pictures: Anthony Sowell's alleged victims

"I'm sorry," 51-year-old Sowell said in a hushed courtroom as he learned forward during a 30-minute unsworn statement.

The prosecution wasn't allowed to cross-examine Sowell, which left the question unanswered as to why he killed the victims and attacked three other women who survived and testified against him.

After apologizing, Sowell added, "I know that might not sound like a lot."

Some relatives of victims wiped away tears as Sowell made his first detailed public comments since his arrest nearly two years ago. Jurors heard his voice earlier in the trial when the prosecution played a lengthy videotaped police interrogation.

Sowell, who occasionally glanced at jurors seated steps away, was carefully guided by questions from one of his defense attorneys, John Parker.

Parker probed Sowell's troubled childhood, his service in the Marine Corps, and his 15-year prison term for attempted rape. He also talked with him about his love of cooking before getting to Sowell's crimes.

Sowell said he was abused as a child, and described his mother beating him with an extension cord. When asked about specifics he said, "I don't want to talk about it." He said his mother did not nurture him as a little boy, reports CBS affiliate WOIO.

He said he joined the Marines because he heard they were tougher than the Army, and he had something to prove to his mother.

Sowell described his work in prison and how he sought employment after he got out in 2005. He worked for a temp agency as a cook and proceeded to describe his work history job by job.

He choked up when he talked about his inability to show emotion to those he loved. He also said he can't hug his sisters or hold hands, reports the station.

Sowell also described mood swings and hearing a voice, one he calls Arnie.

Sowell completed his statement by saying he was sorry. He was asked no specifics about his crimes.

Meanwhile, a social worker, Lori James-Townes, testified earlier Monday that Sowell had an "extremely horrible" childhood. His youth was marked by abuse, an absent father and seeing nieces whipped almost daily.

The home environment "had a horrific cumulative effect" on Sowell, she testified. She narrated a family tree going back generations that includes sexual abuse, promiscuity, absent fathers, epilepsy, heart problems, drug abuse and mental illness.

Under cross-examination by assistant Prosecutor Pinkey Carr, the witness said there was no documented evidence of abuse, sexual or otherwise, of Sowell as a youngster. The report that Sowell had been sexually abused came from him, James-Townes testified.

Complete coverage of the Anthony Sowell case on Crimesider

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