By P.J. Huffstutter
The Ohio man whom investigators believe may be one of the Midwest's most prolific serial killers pleaded not guilty this morning to charges of rape and attempted murder in connection with a September attack that led to investigators discovering the remains of 11 women at his home.
Amid heavy security inside Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland, Anthony Sowell, 50, also pleaded not guilty to kidnapping and felonious assault as part of the alleged Sept. 22 sexual attack.
Judge John P. O'Donnell ordered that $1 million be added to Sowell's existing $5 million bond. Sowell is being held at the Cuyahoga County Jail.
Assistant county prosecutor Gayle Williams said the 36-year-old woman who accused Sowell of raping and choking her is still afraid.
"She was only breaths away from becoming another victim of Mr. Sowell's," Williams said.
Sowell, who was arrested on Oct. 29 in that attack, was previously charged with five counts of aggravated murder in connection with the discovery of bodies at his home.
Prosecutors are expected to file additional murder charges against Sowell for the other six victims in the coming weeks. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
The case is far from over. Local and federal investigators are continuing to search Sowell's home, as well as the backyards of nearby properties, for more victims.
The FBI is also expanding its search into other cities -- including the Camp Pendleton area and other parts of Southern California -- where Sowell, a former Marine, was stationed in the past.
Law enforcement agencies from the California communities of Oceanside and Coronado are checking their files for any possible related cases, as are police departments in North Carolina, South Carolina and Japan.
Sowell moved into the eastside Cleveland duplex in 2005.
He had spent the previous 15 years in state prison for luring a 21-year-old woman into his home, then choking and repeatedly raping her, according to the county prosecutor's office. He pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted rape in that case, according to the prosecutor's office.
When police arrived at Sowell's house to arrest him for the alleged September attack, investigators discovered the bodies of two women lying on the living room floor.
As the days passed, more bodies were discovered. One was in a freshly dug grave underneath a set of stairs in the backyard, while another was in a shallow grave in the basement.
Two more were crammed in a crawl space inside the house. Four more bodies were found buried in the backyard, and a skull was inside a bucket in the basement.
Ten of the 11 victims have been identified so far. Of those who have been identified, all were African American women who ranged in age from 25 to 52.
Investigators and family members of the victims have said that many of the victims either had criminal records, substance-abuse problems or both.
(To read original article, visit this Los Angeles Times link )