CLEVELAND -- Relatives of Anthony Sowell's victims cheered the jury's decision to recommend the death penalty for the serial killer.
"I felt like they were on our side," said Tishira Culver, daughter of Tishana Culver, one of the 11 women Sowell killed in his home on Imperial Avenue.
"We will finally be relieved when all of this is over, when it's not on the news anymore," Culver told reporters gathered outside the courtroom of Judge Dick Ambrose.
After the jury was dismissed and prepared to meet with reporters to talk about the case and their deliberations, the courtroom doors were opened and relatives of Sowell's victims marched joyfully into the hallway of the 18th floor of the Justice Center.
Some had their hands raised, clapping and continuing the cheering which began in the courtroom when Sowell was led away to jail. All agreed with the jury's decision to sentence Sowell to death, a process that took seven hours over the course of two days.
"He got what he deserved," said one family member.
Another, Dorothy Pollard, whose niece Diana Turner was murdered by Sowell, walked to the elevator saying, "Kill him tonight. Kill him tonight. Kill him tonight."
Kathy Wray Coleman, leader of Imperial Women, a grassroots organization in the community in which Sowell carried out his gruesome crimes, also thanked the jury for its decision to sentence the serial killer to death.
One of Sowell's defense attorneys, Rufus Sims, said they respected the jury's decision, but that he and co-counsel John Parker would not be defending Sowell after Friday's formal sentencing.
"We will not be handling any appeals," Sims said, adding that the verdict and sentence "was what it was." Prosecutors on the other hand were clear about the victory they say the victims' families had won.
"It's about these family members. It's about justice," assistant prosecutor Pinkey Carr said. "This case screams for the death penalty."
"This sends a strong message to Cuyahoga County and to other states," lead prosecutor Rick Bombik said. "My God, you're dealing with a serial killer."
He rebuked those who thought a plea deal should have been worked out in advance, "sparing" the families the ordeal of a trial in exchange for a guilty plea for Sowell and a life in prison sentence.
"This was a story that had to be told," Bombik continued. "You can't sweep the facts of this case, the atrocities of this case, under the carpet with a plea deal. You've got to make these murders count for something."
Judge Dick Ambrose will take the jury's death penalty recommendation under advisement and will formally sentence Sowell Friday morning at 9 a.m.
Members of the jury, who were dismissed from their responsbilities after making their sentencing recommendations on Wednesday afternoon, all said they would return to the courtroom on Friday and sit in the jury box one more time.
As spectators, they will witness Judge Ambrose formally impose the sentence which they determined to be appropriate in the case.
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