CLEVELAND (CN) – A woman who says she was kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a suspected serial killer says she was victimized again when a local news station portrayed her as a criminal, “implied that she had knowledge of his other alleged criminal activities, including the murders of multiple victims,” then sold the story to CNN.
She claims Raycom Media’s WOIO Channel 19 News maliciously reported that the naked woman who fled from the home of Anthony Sowell – where 11 bodies were found – “was an associate of Anthony Sowell and implied that she had knowledge of his other alleged criminal activities, including the murders of multiple victims.”
During its lurid reports, “At no time did defendants identify plaintiff, [name] as a victim of crime,” the married woman says in her complaint in Cuyahoga County Court.
Sowell, 50, served 15 years for attempted rape and was released in 2005. He was arrested again in October 2009; the bodies of 11 women were found at his duplex in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood. He was charged with 85 counts of murder, rape and kidnapping and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
The plaintiff, M, says Sowell abducted her on Oct. 20, 2009, sexually assaulted her in his home and threatened to kill her. She jumped from a second-story window “while naked and delirious from the acts of violence” and a utility worker found her “in a semi-unconscious state.” She was taken to a hospital.
M and her husband say the Cleveland Police Department contacted them after the bodies were found in Sowell’s home. She told the police about her assault and gave them her name, but says she was not listed on any incident report or indictment, “in accordance with Ohio’s rape shield laws”.
On Nov. 3, 2009, and for several days afterward, Channel 19 News broadcast “a series of television reports which identified plaintiff, [name], as the woman who had escaped from the Imperial Avenue residence of Anthony Sowell; her discovery while naked; her alleged use of illegal drugs; her previous criminal record including charges of solicitation and drug possession,” according to the complaint.
“Defendants also stated that plaintiff, [name], was an associate of Anthony Sowell and implied that she had knowledge of his other alleged criminal activities, including the murders of multiple victims. Defendants also published a 2000 mug shot [sic] of plaintiff which portrayed her as a criminal participant.
“Defendants also falsely reported that the Cleveland Police issued a report detailing the identity of plaintiff and the history of drug use and abuse outlined in its broadcast report. In fact, plaintiff’s identity was never found in any Cleveland Police incident report and was deliberately withheld to protect her right to privacy and the sensational coverage associated with the Anthony Sowell investigation.”
She claims that Channel 19 “sold the story, footage and details of its purported investigation to national news outlets including CNN which republished the story and false implications … worldwide.”
And she claims the station’s employees trespassed on her property and shot footage of her husband, and broadcast it.
The woman and her husband seek punitive for defamation, invasion of privacy, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
They are represented by Carolyn Kaye Ranke.