CLEVELAND (CN) - Victims of alleged serial killer Anthony Sowell might have been spared their "terrible torture and death" had the City of Cleveland not adopted, for years, a "'straight release and indict later' policy," the women's families say. They claim the city and its Police Department released dangerous felons - including Sowell - after arresting them, "because of "lack of resources, overcrowded jails, lack of manpower, incompetency or indifference".
Anthony Sowell had just been released from 15 years in prison for rape when he attacked Gladys Wade, who escaped and ran, bleeding from the head, to a police station, where she told officers "that she was punched and choked by Anthony Sowell, and he tried to rip her clothes off," according to Wade's complaint. "Sowell was arrested and taken into custody." It was Dec. 8, 2008.
"Gladys Wade made it clear she wanted Anthony Sowell prosecuted," her complaint states.
But two days later, Wade says, "defendant detectives met with defendant Assistant City Prosecutor Loretta Coyne, and upon review of the case, they decided there was insufficient evidence to file prosecution papers, and Anthony Sowell was released. They claimed there were 'no visible signs' of injuries despite witnesses seeing her bleeding, and the medical release forms signed by the victim to confirm medical treatment."
Wade says that police "never checked to see that he [Sowell] was a registered sex offender, or that he had been recently released from prison."
Sowell then proceeded to rape, torture and murder Kim Smith and Crystal Dozier, their families say in separate complaints filed, like Wade's in Cuyahoga County Court.
Police arrested Sowell in late 2009 after a naked woman fell from a window in his home on Imperial Avenue in Cleveland. Police found 11 "decomposing bodies hidden in crawl spaces, buried under direct floors or in the back yard," according to the complaints.
Sowell, who had "served 15 years for raping a woman in 1989, was arrested and indicted on 85 counts of murder, kidnapping, rape, and abuse of a corpse," according to the complaint. Sowell's trial is pending; he has pleaded innocent by reason of insanity.
Wade and the dead women's families say the women would not have suffered at Sowell's hands but for Cleveland's "'straight release and indict later' policy."
They claim police never even checked to see that Sowell was a registered sex offender, and had recently been released from prison, during the 2 days they held him after he attacked Wade.
"Had these defendants not acted recklessly, negligently, wantonly and willfully by releasing Mr. Sowell back into the community, or seeing that he was on bond with conditions to monitor him, the plaintiff's decedents and two others would not have likely been murder victims of Anthony Sowell," Wade's complaint states.
Defendants include the Cuyahoga County Board of Commissioners, Sheriff Gerald McFaul, the City of Cleveland, Assistant City Prosecutor Loretta Coyne, Dets. Georgia Hussein and Kristin Rayburn, Lt. Michael Baumiller, and Sgt. Antoinette McMahon. Wade and the families demand damages for negligence, breach of duty, emotional distress and wrongful death.
They are represented by David Malik.
(Update: Another complaint has been filed making similar allegations on behalf of five other murdered women and their families: the families of Janice Webb, Amelda Hunter, Diane Turner, Telacia Fortson and Nancy Cobbs. These families are represented by Jeffrey Friedman with Friedman Domiano.)