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Ohio sex offender pleads not guilty to slayings, could get death

Michael Madison is led into court in Cleveland on Thursday for his arraignment on updated charges that include aggravated murder.
Michael Madison is led into court in Cleveland on Thursday for his arraignment on updated charges that include aggravated murder.Mark Duncan / Associated Press

A convicted sex offender who allegedly killed three Ohio women and dumped their bodies in trash bags in an impoverished East Cleveland neighborhood pleaded not guilty Thursday to updated charges, including aggravated murder, that could get him the death penalty.

A shackled and stoic Michael Madison, 36, appeared in a Cleveland court Thursday for a brief arraignment on an updated indictment following another review of the case that put a death sentence on the table, according to the Associated Press.

His defense attorney, David Grant, entered the not guilty plea. Grant had tried to convince a prosecution committee in Cleveland not to pursue the death penalty, but said he was not surprised by the court decision, the AP reported.

Madison was arrested July 19 after police discovered the rotting remains of Shirellda Terry, 18, in a garage behind his East Cleveland apartment, after complaints of a foul stench.

The next day, authorities discovered the remains of Shetisha Sheeley, 28, in a weed-strewn lot two houses down from Madison's apartment, and the remains of Angela Deskins, 38, in the basement of a nearby vacant lot.

The county medical examiner has said Terry and Deskins were strangled and that Sheeley died of "homicidal violence by unspecified means," according to the AP.

Related:Sex offender charged with murder after 3 women found in Cleveland suburb

The 14-count updated indictment includes two counts each of aggravated murder for each victim, as well as three counts of kidnapping, three counts of gross abuse of a corpse, one count of rape, and one count of weapons possession by an ex-convict, the wire service reported.

Madison was registered as a sex offender in 2002 after he was sentenced to four years behind bars for attempted rape, according to court records cited by the AP. He also had drug-related convictions in 2000 and 2001.

East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton has said that Madison may have been inspired by notorious Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted of killing 11 women and leaving their bodies in garbage bags near his house in 2009.

The Madison case has drawn comparisons to that of Ariel Castro, the Cleveland serial rapist and kidnapper who held three women — Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — in his home over three years.

They were freed in May after Berry broke partway through a door and screamed for help while Castro was out of the house.

Castro pleaded guilty to nearly 1,000 charges. He was found hanged in his prison cell Sept. 3, just a month after into a life sentence.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.