(Cleveland) - The families of six women who were murdered by serial killer Anthony Sowell in 2009 have reached a settlement with the City of Cleveland.
The families will equally divide a $1 million dollar payment from the city to compensate them for how the case was handled, with their attorneys citing poor detective work, and the failure to follow up on missing persons reports.
The law firms of Friedman & Gilbert and Friedman, Domiano & Smith identified the victims as Nancy Cobbs, Telacia Fortson, Amelda Hunter, Le’Shanda Long, Diane Turner, and Janice Webb.
The law firms also released the following statement:
These families were met with repeated indifference by the Cleveland Division of Police, whose officers refused in some cases to take missing persons reports from family members, and by the Sex Crimes Unit, where officers failed to follow up on the missing persons reports that were taken, accompanied by the failure to monitor detectives’ work. After months of worrying about missing loved ones, these families were met with the horrific news of the murders.The deaths of all of these women was preventable, had Det. Hussein properly handled the Sowell case in December 2008. As noted by the Eighth District Court of Appeals, Hussein’s reckless and sloppy police work caused Sowell to be released from jail in December 2008, after he was arrested for a brutal attack on Gladys Wade, who barely escaped from Sowell’s upstairs apartment. Ms. Wade, beaten, bloodied, and shaken, was able to flag down police who then arrested Sowell at his Imperial Avenue home. But Det. Hussein told a City prosecutor that she did not believe Wade’s account over the statement of Sowell, who was a registered sex offender, having only a few years earlier completed a 15-year sentence for a similar rape of a woman. Hussein’s release of Sowell not only led to the murder of these six women, but also led to another brutal attack on Latundra Billups – who barely escaped after jumping from a second-floor window.
Activist Kathy Wray Coleman of the Imperial Women Coalition, believes the settlement is too low, considering the negligence involved. She claims the settlement would have been larger if the victim's families were not poor, and black.
Coleman tells Newsradio WTAM 1100, that little has changed since the sentencing of Sowell, and that minority females in Cleveland's inner city are still at risk of being raped and murdered, because city, county, and state leaders have not improved police protection.
Sowell was charged with eleven counts of aggravated murder and over 70 counts of rape, kidnapping, tampering with evidence, and abuse of a corpse.
He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but later changed his plea to simply "not guilty."
On July 22, 2011, he was convicted on all but two counts against him, including the murders of the eleven women whose bodies were found in his house in 2009.
On August 10, jurors recommended the death penalty for Sowell. On August 12, Judge Dick Ambrose upheld the jury's recommendation.
Since September 14, 2011, Sowell has resided on death row at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.
(Photos by Ken Robinson/WTAM)
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