October 20, 2014

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Cleveland man charged with killing 11 women testifies in court

CLEVELAND — An ex-girlfriend of a man charged with killing 11 women and hiding their remains in and around his home testified Tuesday that he grew violent when he smoked crack and that he often had bloody injuries on his face and neck.

Lori Frazier, who dated Anthony Sowell several years ago, told the court that she moved out of his Cleveland home after he started acting “real nasty” and she decided to clean up her life for the sake of her children. She told Assistant Prosecutor Pinkey Carr she once saw him digging a hole in his backyard and dumping the contents of a bucket into it.

Anthony Sowell smiles during court proceedings Tuesday in a Cuyahoga County courtroom. (AP PHOTO)

Anthony Sowell smiles during court proceedings Tuesday in a Cuyahoga County courtroom. (AP PHOTO)

“He would just get off base and scream and holler in my face,” Frazier said. “He smacked me, and I fell on the table, and I tried to kick him.”

Sowell, 51, fidgeted in his chair as Frazier spoke during the second day of testimony in his trial. Sowell has pleaded not guilty to killing the women and faces the death penalty if convicted.

The women’s bodies were found throughout the home and buried in the backyard in late 2009. The women disappeared one by one, starting in October 2007, with the last one vanishing in September 2009.

Frazier testified that Sowell once told her “I got rid of them” but she didn’t believe him, The Plain Dealer reported.

Frazier, who’s the niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, said she and Sowell used to smoke crack together but she cleaned up her act when they broke up. She said she still visited him occasionally after she moved out.

Frazier told the court that she once saw blood on the carpet of Sowell’s home and another time “his neck was stripped down to the white meat.” She said he explained his injuries by saying that someone had tried to rob him.

She said Sowell wouldn’t allow her to enter a room on the third floor of his home.

She also said that she knew one of the victims, Crystal Dozier, who disappeared in 2007. The two women had known each other since elementary school, and Frazier said she occasionally saw Dozier out on the streets doing drugs.

Lori Frazier

Lori Frazier

Earlier Tuesday, Assad Tayeh, who opened a convenience store near the Sowell house in 2000, said Sowell changed after three or four years when he started hanging out with the neighborhood drug crowd. Tayeh said the smell coming from Sowell’s home was “unbelievable.”

“I like Anthony,” Tayeh said. “But he gave me a headache from that smell. Oh, my goodness. Especially in the summer.”

Tayeh said Sowell once asked him about buying heavy-duty plastic bags. Police have said some of the remains were found in plastic bags at Sowell’s house.

Several of Sowell’s family members also took the witness stand on Tuesday, including half-brothers Thomas and Allan Sowell and his stepmother’s mother, 88-year-old Virginia Oliver.

His half-brothers testified that Sowell shared the house with his stepmother, who owned it but lived in hospitals or nursing homes for years before her death. That left him living there by himself or with a girlfriend. His stepmother died after the bodies were found, and Oliver became the homeowner.

Anthony Sowell avoided eye contact with Thomas Sowell, who testified that he had little contact with his half-brother. But Anthony Sowell chuckled and nodded in agreement with family stories mentioned by his other half-brother and Oliver.

“Hi, Anthony,” Oliver said several minutes into her testimony as she spotted him at the defense table.

Sowell, who has sat without emotion through most courtroom appearances, stood, smiled and waved in response.