Wrongful-death suit against Cleveland

Dec. 9, 2010 at 10:40 AM

CLEVELAND, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Families of five of 11 women whose remains were found in the home of an accused serial killer sued Cleveland, alleging police bungled the case time after time.

The lawsuit, filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, blames the women's deaths in the home of convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell, 51, on an alleged "deliberate indifference" of sex-crimes detectives and a police "straight release and indict later" policy of releasing suspects until enough evidence is gathered to indict them.

Sowell has pleaded not guilty in all 11 deaths and faces a Feb. 14 trial. He could get the death penalty if convicted, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reported.

Six women found in Sowell's home were killed after Cleveland police failed to aggressively investigate accusations he had attacked other victims who had escaped, the lawsuit alleges.

One bleeding woman ran to a police car Dec. 8, 2008, claiming Sowell punched and choked her and tried to rip her clothes off -- and while Sowell was arrested and taken into custody for two days, he was then released under the "straight release" policy, with police ignoring or failing to investigate his criminal background, the lawsuit alleges.

Sowell's criminal background would have shown he had served a 15-year prison term for the rape of a woman in 1989.

The lawsuit asks the court to grant financial compensation for the victims' families and to order Cleveland to review its investigative and prosecutorial policies and procedures "to prevent such reckless conduct in the future."

City officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

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