A sex offender who fled before police arrived to arrest him on a rape charge was arrested Saturday in his inner-city neighborhood after police found six decomposing bodies at his home.
Police spokesman Lt. Thomas Stacho said Anthony Sowell was walking down the street on the east side of Cleveland when authorities spotted him and took him into custody.
Sowell initially denied he was the man authorities were looking for but admitted his identity as officers began fingerprinting him, Stacho said. Charges against him are pending.
Officers initially identified three bodies at Sowell’s home, Stacho said. Powell Caesar, a spokesman for the Cuyahoga County coroner’s office, said additional remains were found and confirmed Saturday as three more bodies, for a total of six.
As of Saturday, autopsies had been performed on all six bodies but no cause of death or names were announced. Two autopsies were done Friday.
The first two bodies were found Thursday night when police went to Sowell’s home to arrest him on charges of felonious assault and rape. Police say he had spent 15 years in prison for a 1989 attempted rape.
Cuyahoga County Coroner Frank Miller identified two bodies as black females and said one had died of a violent death ruled a homicide. No race or gender was determined for the others.
Police established a command post in the neighborhood to take missing-person reports and additional information on outstanding missing persons in the neighborhood.
Teresa Hicks, 48, was among the neighbors who said they were relieved about the arrest but left with a heightened fear of crime. She said she has known Sowell since high school.
“He was crazy,” she said from her porch Saturday. “Sometimes he would just go off if he didn’t have his way.”
Darren Dunlap, 38, frequently visits the neighborhood to see his brother or friends. He said Sowell was known for borrowing money and looking for scrap metal to sell.
Hicks said she didn’t think Sowell had a job but understood from conversations with him that he lived on a monthly check. She said she didn’t know its source.
Police were checking crime reports to find matches for similarities to the 1989 attempted rape or the most recent allegation against Sowell.
Minutes before the arrest was made, police Chief Michael McGrath tried to reassure parents that it was safe for their children to go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood if they followed standard precautions like avoiding strangers and staying in a group.
Hicks said her daughter would not be trick-or-treating.
Detectives with a search warrant found two bodies Thursday on the third floor of a duplex and began checking a fresh grave dug in the basement. The bodies were in an advanced state of decomposition, suggesting they’d been in the home a long time.
Police were checking missing-person reports back to June 2005, when Sowell was released from prison.
As a convicted sex offender, Sowell was required to report regularly to the sheriff's office, which said he had complied.