A woman told police in December that a Cleveland man now suspected of killing 11 women had beaten her and tried to rape her, but he wasn't charged in the case.
Anthony Sowell was arrested but released without being charged, in part because a detective felt the woman was not credible, city prosecutor Victor Perez told The Plain Dealer for a story Friday.
The woman had several red scratches around her neck and was bleeding from a deep gash in her thumb when she flagged down police near Sowell's home on Dec. 8, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press.
Police say they found what appeared to be blood on a tissue in the driveway and footprints in the snow indicating a possible struggle. They also saw drops of blood inside the house and scratch marks on Sowell's face.
The report shows that police went into the house and to a third-floor landing, where they saw a trash can containing broken glass, a sweater, pink sweat pants and panties. They knocked on the door of a third-floor apartment, Sowell answered and they arrested him.
Perez was not in his office Friday morning and a message seeking comment was left for him at the mayor's press office. Messages seeking comment also were left for Lt. Tom Stacho, a police spokesman.
Sowell, 50, appeared in court Friday and entered not guilty pleas to rape, kidnapping, attempted murder and felonious assault in the separate report of an alleged Sept. 22 attack.
Police investigating that rape report searched his home beginning Oct. 29, and ended up finding the remains of 11 women at his house. Authorities believe he lured them into his house with the promise of getting high, then strangled them and left their bodies inside or buried in the backyard.
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell set bond at $1 million on the charges and continued Sowell's $5 million bond from last week, when he was charged with five counts of aggravated murder.
Sowell, a registered sex offender since 2005 following his release from prison after serving 15 years for attempted rape, nodded when the judge explained his rights and shook his head no when O'Donnell asked if he could afford his own attorney. Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands cuffed in front of him, Sowell appeared engaged and alert, at times bouncing slightly on his feet.
Gayle Williams, assistant county prosecutor, said the woman who accused Sowell of rape remains very fearful of him and is concerned for her safety.
"She was only breaths away from becoming another victim of Mr. Sowell," Williams said.
O'Donnell appointed Brian McGraw to be Sowell's attorney. McGraw, who was not in court, said he met with Sowell later Friday at the county jail. McGraw declined to comment on the case or describe his conversation with Sowell.
In the December police report, the woman told police she had bought a beer at a corner store near Sowell's home and that he had asked her to have a drink with him when she passed by his house.
When she refused, she says, he blocked her path, punched her and dragged her to the back of the home. He choked her and dragged her inside, where he told her to remove her clothes, the woman said.
She said she fought him off and escaped.
A phone number for the woman's sister was listed on the report but is not in service.
Remains of 10 of the 11 victims found at Sowell's home have been identified, and funerals for the women are to continue this weekend.
Across the street from Sowell's house, a memorial that started out a week ago with just a few faces and names on a plywood panel now covers the board as well as the brick wall of a chicken and pizza restaurant.
There are dozens of pictures of missing women as well as handwritten notes, some expressing condolences for the 10 women whose remains have been identified and others posted by people holding out hope that their loved ones are not among the victims. There are also dozens of stuffed animals, burning candles and flowers, some artificial, some real, that have been left at the memorial.