Odor leads to a grisly find for Ohio police as 3 female bodies are discovered in trash bags

  • Article by: ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS , Associated Press
  • Updated: July 22, 2013 - 12:55 AM
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East Cleveland police search Sunday, July 21, 2013, near where three bodies were recently found, in East Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo: Tony Dejak, Associated Press - Ap

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EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Authorities responding to a report of a foul odor from a home ultimately discovered three bodies and arrested a registered sex offender who sent police and volunteers through a poor Ohio neighborhood in a search for more victims Sunday, officials said.

East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts had cautioned searchers to be prepared to find one or two more victims. But after a daylong search that included 40 abandoned houses and other areas, no more bodies were found.

Spotts identified the suspect as 35-year-old Michael Madison. He said Madison is expected to be formally charged Monday, but did not elaborate.

Mayor Gary Norton said the suspect has indicated he might have been influenced by Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of murdering 11 women and sentenced to death.

It's the latest in a series of high-profile cases involving the disappearance of women from the Cleveland area.

The odor led to the discovery Friday of one body in a garage. Two others were found Saturday — one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The bodies of the three women, all wrapped in plastic bags, were found about 100 to 200 yards apart, and authorities believed the victims were killed in the last six to 10 days.

Searchers rummaging through vacant houses in the same neighborhood Sunday were warned by Spotts to brace themselves for the smell of rotting bodies and to look out for trash bags that might conceal a body.

Spotts indicated later Sunday that the suspect's comments haven't provided clarity on whether more bodies might be found.

"He really hasn't stated that there's any more, but he hasn't said anything that would make us think that there's not," Spotts said.

Norton said authorities have "lots of reasons" to suspect there are more victims, but he refused to say why.

Norton said Madison, who was arrested Friday after a police standoff, has indicated to authorities he might have been influenced by Sowell.

"He said some things that led us to believe that in some way, shape, or form, Sowell might be an influence," Norton told The Associated Press.

It wasn't immediately clear whether Madison has an attorney, and no one was commenting Sunday afternoon at the address his mother's home.

Madison was classified as a sex offender in 2002 when he was sentenced to four years in prison for attempted rape, according to Cuyahoga County court records. He had previous convictions in 2000 and 2001 for drug-related charges.

All three bodies were found in the fetal position, wrapped in several layers of trash bags, Norton said. He said detectives continue to interview Madison, who used his mother's address in Cleveland in registering as a sex offender, the mayor said.

Cuyahoga County medical examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson said Sunday that the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition and that it would take several days to identify them and how they died.

About three dozen volunteers, including community anti-crime activists, fanned out Sunday morning across yards, through vacant houses and along a railroad to help police search. The chief advised them to watch for missing floor boards as they looked inside houses. One young searcher crawled under a board screwed across a door to go inside a house to search.

"The MO of each body we've found so far was wrapped up in a lot of garbage bags, so if you see anything .... and it might not look like it's a body, but it could be — because each bag, the way he had each person was in a fetal position," Spotts told searchers before they began. "It didn't look like a person could actually fit in the bag."

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