CLEVELAND – Authorities are investigating whether a man whose home and yard harbored the remains of at least 11 people is connected to any killings in places he lived while in the military, including Japan, California and the Carolinas.
The FBI told Cleveland police that the agency will investigate any leads in the case against Anthony Sowell, 50, who served in the Marines from 1978 to 1985, said Scott Wilson, an FBI spokesman in Cleveland.
FBI behavioral specialists visited the Sowell property during the weekend and will try to develop a profile of the killings that could help determine whether investigations need to be opened or reopened elsewhere, Wilson said.
Sowell was stationed at various times at Parris Island, S.C.; Cherry Point, N.C.; Okinawa, Japan; and Camp Pendleton, Calif.
The city of East Cleveland is also reviewing three unsolved slayings in 1988 and 1989, after Sowell returned there from service in the Marines and before he went to prison for attempted rape, said Sgt. Ken Bolton, a detective for the police department in the Cleveland suburb.
Sowell has been charged in Cleveland with five counts of aggravated murder in connection with the bodies found at the home.
The FBI will review its national database of unsolved crimes for any clues to possible connections to Sowell, particularly at his military service locations, Wilson said. The first step is to get a detailed timeline of his service, Wilson said.
Police in Coronado, Calif., near Camp Pendleton, said a woman told them that she saw Sowell's mug shot on TV and was sure he had raped her in 1979.
Officers talked with the woman but were unable to confirm her story because rape investigation records from 30 years ago have been thrown out, said Jesus Ochoa, Coronado police commander.
"She seemed credible," he said.
Near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Onslow County Sheriff Ed Brown and his deputies are sifting through paper records to check for any unsolved killings or disappearances during the time Sowell was at the Marine base from May 20, 1978, to July 12, 1978.
Brown said he has already run Sowell's name through computerized court files and hasn't found that Sowell got so much as a traffic ticket while in the area. But the paper search is slow going.
"The computer technology then is not what it is now," Brown said.
The unsolved East Cleveland slayings of Rosalind Garner on May 27, 1988, Carmella Prater on Feb. 27, 1989, and Mary Thomas on March 28, 1989, will be checked against the autopsies of the bodies found at Sowell's home to check for similarities, Bolton said.
"It's for the family's closure," he said. "They are unsolved and they happened around the time that he was not in jail."
No connections had been made by Monday, he said.
Seven of the victims found at the Sowell home, all black women, have been identified. The Cuyahoga County coroner's office said Monday that it was working to identify the other four.
Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave Oct. 29 at the house on the city's east side. The number grew to 11 by Tuesday.
Investigators returned Monday to the house, which has been cordoned off as a crime scene under 24-hour guard, but there was no immediate word on their activities inside.