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Jury selection set in Cleveland killings

June 6, 2011 at 10:47 AM   |   Comments

CLEVELAND, June 6 (UPI) -- A reported plea offer was rejected and jury selection begins Monday for a murder suspect accused of hiding 11 women's bodies in his Cleveland home and yard.

Anthony Sowell, 51, a convicted sex offender and ex-Marine, agreed to plead guilty to all charges, including murder, in exchange for prosecutors dropping the death penalty, Cleveland's WEWS-TV reported, citing legal sources.

Sowell would also give up rights to appeal a guilty verdict, the TV station said.

Prosecutors rejected the deal, WEWS said.

Defense and prosecution attorneys refused to discuss the proposed plea deal or any other aspects of the case.

But Ryan Miday. the prosecution's spokesman, told WEWS Sowell's case would go to trial as planned Monday.

"The type of heinous crime deserves prosecution," he said.

Up to 132 witnesses -- police, relatives of victims, women who say they survived attacks by Sowell -- are expected to be called, The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer reports. A record 1,000 prospective jurors had been summoned.

Prosecutors say Sowell, who at his arraignment pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, lured women from his Mount Pleasant neighborhood into his home, from May 2007 through September 2009, with the promise of alcohol or drugs, then killed them.

He faces the death penalty if convicted of nearly 100 charges, including murder, kidnapping, rape, aggravated robbery, felonious assault, molesting a human corpse, aggravated robbery, attempted murder and tampering with evidence.

In 1989 Sowell pleaded guilty in a plea bargain to attempted rape of woman who was three months' pregnant. He served 15 years and was released in 2005.

He then worked in a factory until 2007, when he began collecting unemployment benefits.

Neighbors complained to the health department of a foul smell in the neighborhood, which Sowell first blamed on poor housekeeping habits of his stepmother and later attributed to a nearby sausage factory.

Defense lawyers have unsuccessfully sought a change of venue, saying an impartial jury cannot be found in Cuyahoga County.

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