The Cleveland Strangler is one of the most notoriously unrecognized serial murder cases in the United States. Serial killer Anthony Sowell was able to rape and murder over 11 women in Cleveland, Ohio, for decades without any major attention from authorities.
How can a person get away with murders for two decades? With the multiple social injustices in Cleveland’s economic and judicial system, it caused the community to turn a blind eye to Sowell’s doings.
Sowell lived at 12205 Imperial Avenue, known for having a high population of substance addicts, and for being a low-income neighborhood. His victims were all part of the community and were African American females with drug addictions. Using their addiction to his predatory advantage, Sowell was able to lure his victims to their death and/or rape.
Although the families of the victim’s filed missing person reports and even placed flyers in their neighborhoods, the Cleveland police department police department claimed to be understaffed, and even under-trained for this kind of case. That these women were well-known drug addicts gave them a negative stigma within the community and their well-being was often disregarded.
“They’re just an addict.”
“They always go missing from home and just pop up in different states” were comments that accompanied this case. These women were not treated as a priority because of race, class and lifestyle.
Sowell had buried five of his victims in his backyard and six were in his home, and were visible when visitors walked in. Sowell’s neighborhood was being known for a foul smell. No one knew where it was coming from, and when health inspectors came to investigate their reports led to a local sausage sandwich spot on the corner. The city paid for work in the restaurant, but the smell lingered. No one seemed to care for the neighborhoods up keep anything longer, so there were no other investigations.
(Sowell’s empty lot was next door to the shop.)
Promises of making Sowells property into a flower garden have not been kept. Any assistance, as far as counseling for the deceased women’s children and family, has never been provided. However, similar cases in Cleveland, such as Ariel Castro and his kidnapping of Amanda Berry, made national headlines. Once that story came out everyone wanted to help assist Berry reintegrate to the world—rightfully so. But why isn’t the Cleveland Strangler making headlines?
Is it because the victims had a past of substance abuse? Is it that these women weren’t white, and that’s why no one responded to their cases with a sense of urgency?
Charles Ramsey, the man who helped Berry escape her in-home prison, said, “Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms, something is wrong here…” He was explaining Berry’s reaction when she first saw him. Ramsey said again, “Dead giveaway. Dead giveaway. De-ad giveaway. Either she is homeless, or she got problems. That’s the only reason why she’d run to a black man.”
I wonder how he or any member of his neighborhood would have reacted if one of Sowell’s victims ran to him for help. Would they cast her aside like everyone else? If you were to ever go missing, no matter who you are or what you have done in your life, it shouldn’t come to local authorities to determine whether you’re worth searching for.