CLEVELAND -- Families of Anthony Sowell's murder victims held little back as they addressed the court which sentenced him to death on Friday. One after another they expressed their anguish, anger, and even forgiveness toward the serial killer.
"Anthony, you are an animal, and hell awaits your arrival," said Donnita Carmichael, whose mother Tonia disappeared on November 10, 2008. Her remains, and those of 10 other women, were found in and around Sowell's house on Imperial Avenue on Cleveland's east side one year later.
As the families talked, Sowell sat passively, eyes tightly closed and head tilted downward, feigning sleep. He kept that posture during the entire two hour sentencing phase of his trial, refusing to acknowledge the family members, his own attorneys, and even the judge.
"I'll never forgive you," Carmichael continued, "the way you sat through these court proceedings without a ounce of remorse. You are going to hell for your actions."
Adlean Atterberry, whose daughter Michelle Mason was strangled by Sowell, looked his way and said, "I'm not no hateful person. I didn't believe in the death penalty until I met you."
Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Dick Ambrose had accepted the jury's recommendation of a death sentence, finding that the circumstances of the 11 murders outweighed any mitigating factors. He set an execution date of October 29, 2012.
Speaking from his wheelchair, Don Smith, the father of murder victim Kim Smith said of Sowell, "He took my heart. He took my life. I might as well die, too."
The packed courtroom sat in near reverent silence as groups of family members approached a podium in the courtroom.
Dorothy Pollard, whose niece Diana Turner was killed by Sowell, ended her statement by looking at Sowell and saying forcefully, "May your pacemaker stop and may you die tonight."
Several family members said they had to forgive Sowell so that God would forgive them for whatever they may have done. "I didn't want to go around being the angry victim," said Shawn Morris, one of three women who survived Sowell's attacks.
"I'm not a victim. I'm a survivor and I thank God for that," she went on. "The anger has washed off me. I gave it to God. And now it's time to reap what he has sown, and I forgive him."
"I have to forgive him so I can move on with my life," Gladys Wade Thomas, another survivor, stated. "If I keep the anger inside, I can't budge."
Judge Ambrose concluded the proceedings by offering a few words of his own. He talked about a suggestion by one of the families that Anthony Sowell be forced to look at pictures of his victims every day while he sits in his prison cell.
"I can't do that, but I don't think he would feel bad about what he did," Ambrose said from the bench. He then looked at the condemned serial killer and added, "If you did feel bad then I would have some hope for you."
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