Jury weighs death sentence for Ohio serial killer

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A jury that convicted a man of killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his house and yard began deliberations Tuesday on whether to recommend that he be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.

CLEVELAND (AP) — A jury that convicted a man of killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his house and yard began deliberations Tuesday on whether to recommend that he be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison without the chance of parole.

Anthony Sowell, 51, stood up and stretched his arms but showed no emotion as jurors filed out of the hushed courtroom to start deliberating in the afternoon. Like the verdict phase, jurors will be sequestered until they make a decision.

The jurors ended their deliberations Tuesday night without reaching a decision on Sowell’s penalty and were to resume Wednesday. The sentence will be up to Judge Dick Ambrose, who can reduce a death penalty sentence to life without chance of parole but cannot toughen a life sentence to death.

The jurors began deliberating after hearing 1 1/2 hours of closing statements from both sides — prosecutors spoke first and last, with the defense in between.

One of Sowell’s two defense attorneys, John Parker, said Sowell deserved to live because of his troubled childhood in an abusive home, his service in the Marine Corps, his job history and his good behavior while serving 15 years in prison for attempted rape.

Still, anyone who lives in a house for two years with the rotting remains of his murder victims must have a mental problem, Parker said.

"This man is sick in the head," said Parker, turning to wave at Sowell, who watched impassively.

Assistant prosecutor Pinkey Carr said Sowell deserves to die for his crimes and responded to the comments about his mental condition by saying: "He’s crazy like a fox. He’s evil."

She said Sowell was motivated by a lack of respect for women.

Police say Sowell lured women to his house with liquor and cocaine and killed them, most tied up and strangled.

Many of the victims had been missing for weeks or months, and some had criminal records. They were put in garbage bags and plastic sheets, then dumped in various parts of the house and backyard.

The remains, including a skull in a basement bucket, were found in late 2009 when officers went to Sowell’s home to investigate a report of a sexual assault.

The defense didn’t call witnesses during the trial. Sowell took the stand in an unsworn statement on Monday and apologized, saying, "It’s not typical of me. I don’t know what happened. I can’t explain it."

The prosecution wasn’t allowed to cross-examine Sowell, leaving unspoken the question of why he killed the women and attacked three other women who survived and testified against him.

Carr and her colleague, assistant prosecutor Richard Bombik, listed each victim by name, and Bombik reminded jurors how each died.

Of all the factors mentioned by the defense to portray Sowell sympathetically and spare his life, only his Marine Corps service isn’t in dispute, Bombik said.

Bombik asked whether the military service would outweigh the deaths of two women. He then repeated the question over and over, adding one victim to the toll each time, until the final death toll: 11 women.

"At what point is enough enough?" he asked.

Bombik alluded to Sowell’s good behavior in prison, where he developed friendships and enjoyed working in the kitchen. Recommending life in prison, Bombik said, wouldn’t be punishment enough.

"It’s sending him home to a place where he does well at," Bombik said.

Parker, the defense attorney, detailed factors meant to sway the jury and said his client "has been portrayed as a monster." But, Parker, added, "He is worthy of life."

Carr made the second prosecution closing statement and reminded jurors of Sowell’s comment to arresting officers when he said, "I just want to die."

She seized on that and urged jurors to make it come true "because it’s what he wants. He wants to die."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

(AP Photo/Marvin Fong, Pool)

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