Authorities who found the bodies of three women in garbage bags in a low-income U.S. neighbourhood after complaints over a bad odour ended a daylong search without finding other victims. A registered sex offender was in custody.
East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts had warned searchers to be prepared to find one or two more victims on Sunday, but he declined to elaborate.
The discovery was the Cleveland area’s latest high-profile case of missing women. Earlier this year, three women in an unrelated case were found and freed after being held captive in a home for years.
Mr. Spotts identified the suspect as 35-year-old Michael Madison and said he was expected to be formally charged on Monday.
Mayor Gary Norton said the suspect indicated he might have been influenced by Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of murdering 11 women and sentenced to death. Sowell was arrested after a woman escaped from his house and said she had been raped. Police found the 11 women’s mostly nude bodies in garbage bags and plastic sheets throughout the home.
In this latest case, one body was found on Friday in a garage. Two others were found on Saturday one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The three female bodies, all wrapped in plastic bags, were found about 200 yards (182 meters) apart, and authorities believed the victims were killed in the last six to 10 days.
Mr. Spotts said the suspect’s comments hadn’t provided clarity on whether more bodies might be found.
“He really hasn’t stated that there’s any more, but he hasn’t said anything that would make us think that there’s not,” Mr. Spotts said.
Sunday’s search included 40 abandoned houses. Authorities want to be thorough, the mayor said.
“Hopefully, we pray to God, this is it,” he said.
The bodies were each in the fetal position, wrapped in several layers of trash bags, Norton said.
Cuyahoga County medical examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson said the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition and that it would take several days to identify them and how they died.
It wasn’t immediately clear whether Madison had an attorney. No one commented at the address he registered.
Madison was classified as a sex offender in 2002 when he was sentenced to four years in prison for attempted rape, according to Cuyahoga County court records. He had previous convictions in 2000 and 2001 for drug-related charges.
One neighbour, Nathenia Crosby, said she was familiar with the suspect and had seen him walking through the neighbourhood. She said she had told him to stop chatting with her 19-year-old daughter.
“When I found out how old he was, I said, ‘You need to move on, she’s too young,’” Ms. Crosby said.