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Continued: Soul-searching in Cleveland after discovery of 3 bodies _ third chilling case of missing women

  • Article by: ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS , AP Legal Affairs Writer
  • Last update: July 23, 2013 - 5:45 AM

Four years ago, Cleveland was shocked by the arrest of Anthony Sowell, who stalked and killed 11 women on Cleveland's east side and hid the bodies around his house and yard. He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to death.

Many of Sowell's victims were drug addicts who were never reported missing. Law enforcement authorities were accused of fostering an environment that made residents, many of them black, reluctant to call police.

That mistrust led to the creation of insular islands in poor neighborhoods that make it easy for predators like Sowell to operate, said James Renner, a Cleveland investigative reporter, film producer and author of "The Serial Killer's Apprentice," about 13 unsolved crimes in Cleveland.

"Human predators work very similarly to predators in nature," Renner said. "They will go to the place that they have the highest rate of success, where they can stalk without being caught or seen or reported."

This week's news comes at a time when Cleveland is in many ways reinventing itself.

The city just opened a $465 million convention center and exhibit hall. The Horseshoe Casino has opened in a former department store, bringing scores of visitors. And parts of downtown are bustling with a vibrant restaurant scene and the first new apartments in decades.

Across the street from the new convention center, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is hosting an exhibit on the Rolling Stones. The Cleveland Indians are in second place in the American League's Central Division.

And next year, the city hosts the Gay Games, expected to attract 30,000 visitors.

This week, the city is filling up with 11,000 older athletes competing in the National Senior Games. But the lead headline in The Plain Dealer that greeted many participants Monday was: "Discovery of three bodies again raises issue of violence against women here."

The crimes are affecting the image people have of Cleveland, said East Cleveland resident Ali Bilal.

"They're thinking it's one of those places that you don't want to go," he said. "It's like a horror show."

Yet ask other people in East Cleveland about the long-term effect of this latest tragedy, and many return to the same thing: At least it's bringing people together.

"Maybe after all this, maybe this will bring a change to East Cleveland," Vanessa Jones said Sunday as she watched investigators search a vacant lot near where the bodies were found. "Hopefully. Pray for that."

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