CLEVELAND – A Cleveland woman said Thursday that that she was choked and threatened this year by the man now charged with murder after the remains of several people were found on his property — and that she is racked with guilt for not speaking up earlier.
Tanja Doss told The Associated Press that if she had quickly gone to authorities, her best friend, Nancy Cobbs, might not be missing. She believes Cobbs might be among the 11 victims whose remains were found at Sowell's home.
Police have recovered 10 bodies and a skull from the home and yard of 50-year-old Anthony Sowell, a registered sex offender who moved back to his family's house in 2005 after serving 15 years in prison for attempted rape. He is being held without bond on five counts of aggravated murder.
Of the bodies found at Sowell's home, only one victim has been identified so far — 52-year-old Tonia Carmichael of Warrensville Heights.
Area pastors urged the families of missing people Thursday to provide DNA samples that could help the coroner's office identify the remains, claiming that nearly two dozen others are still missing in the community. The coroner's office, meanwhile, tried to calm concerns by promising DNA samples would not be shared with law enforcement.
Doss, 43, said she met Sowell in 2005, right after he was released from prison. He didn't tell her wh stop this conversation that they were crackheads, they were this and that," he said. "They were people."
After the rally, Police Chief Michael McGrath said police searched their missing-persons database a few days ago and found 14 missing black women between ages 25 and 60 in that neighborhood.
Investigators are cross-referencing those missing women with the remains at coroner's office, he said. Some of the cases date back several years.
The police chief said he had no idea whether investigators would find more bodies.
Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Brian Murphy has said Sowell could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder counts. Sowell also faces charges of rape, felonious assault and kidnapping after a Sept. 22 attack on a woman at his home.
A message left with the county public defender's office was not returned Thursday.