City Of Cleveland To Pay $1 Million To Families Of Six Sowell Victims

Anthony Sowell is known as the Cleveland Strangler. He was convicted of 82 charges in the death of 11 women and has been sentenced to death.
Anthony Sowell is known as the Cleveland Strangler. He was convicted of 82 charges in the death of 11 women and has been sentenced to death.

The city of Cleveland has settled a lawsuit with the families of six women murdered by serial killer Anthony Sowell in 2009.

Lawyers representing the families of Nancy Cobbs, Telacia Fortson, Amelda Hunter, Le'Shanda Long, Diane Turner and Janice Webb argued Sowell was released from jail in 2008 after Cleveland police detective Georgia Hussein failed to adequately investigate accusations by another woman that Sowell had assaulted her. At that time, Sowell was a registered sex offender who had spent 15 years in prison for rape.

"Hussein's release of Sowell not only led to the murder of these six women," the lawyers said in a written statement, "but also led to another brutal attack on Latundra Billups - who barely escaped after jumping from a second-floor window."

The six families will evenly split the $1 million settlement. The city will also pay the families' legal costs.

They aren't happy with the outcome, said Rev. Jimmy Gates of the Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church and the Imperial Coalition who spoke on behalf of the families.

"Unfortunately, the law has prevailed, and they felt that it was in the best interest of those involved to come to the settlement," Gates said. "We talked about it; we prayed about it; and they figured it was the best thing to do in order that they can put their lives back together. They want to establish the fact that certainly there is no amount of money that could bring their loved ones back. If so, they would turn it all in."

Gates says one factor in the settlement was the strained relationship between some of the families of Sowell's victims. Five victims were not included in the lawsuit because of their times of death relative to Sowell's release in 2008.

"These families were at one time extremely close, when this first happened," Gates said. "They feel as if they were left out, and there's some fractured relationships there now."

Sowell was arrested in October 2009 after investigators found the remains of two women on his property on Imperial Avenue on Cleveland's east side. After searching the walls of the home and excavating the backyard, police found a total of ten bodies and one skull. 

In 2011, Sowell was convicted of killing 11 women. He was sentenced to death but his execution has been put on hold while his case is on appeal.

The city declined to comment with a spokesperson for the city of Cleveland saying in an email that they do not discuss ongoing litigation. 

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