Amanda Berry and Company Made it Home; 11 Other Cleveland Women Weren’t as Fortunate

In May, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued after 10+ years of captivity at the hands of Ariel Castro. These three brave women survived despicable torture and unspeakable fear in a house of horrors located at 2207 Seymour Ave for over a decade. Unfortunately, this wasn’t Cleveland’s only house of horrors. Just over five miles away at 12205 Imperial Ave., 11 women lost their lives to convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell, The Cleveland Strangler.

Sowell moved into the home after serving a 15 year sentence for a rape conviction. In 1989, a woman who was three months pregnant went to Sowell’s home voluntarily. When she tried to leave, he bound her hands and feet with a tie and belt, then gagged her with a rag. The victim told police: “He choked me real hard because my body started tingling. I thought I was going to die.” Sowell was charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted rape. He eventually pleaded guilty to the charge of attempted rape, and as a result he served 15 years in prison. He was released in 2005.

A factory worker until 2007, Sowell then lived off of unemployment benefits as well as money from metal recycling. During the period of 2005 -2009, Sowell lured women to his home with drugs and alcohol. The women were all African American mothers who had hit upon hard times. Almost all of them struggled with drug addiction, and had turned to prostitution and stealing to support their habits.

During this period neighbors would constantly complain about the smell of death emanating from the house. Several women, fortunate enough to make it from the house, complained to officials about rape and attempted rapes committed against them by Sowell. In both cases little, if anything at all, was done in response. Anthony Sowell also subscribed to an online dating site that specialized in bondage and fetishes. He set up his account in 2005, just after he got out of prison. Listing himself as 5 feet 10 inches, 160 pounds and with a distinctive facial scar, he described himself as a “master” looking for a “submissive,” and as a partier, a people person.  Sowell also formed a friendship of sorts with Lori Frazier, the niece of Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson. Frazier lived with Sowell for a period during 2007 & 2008. She claims to have smelled the stench of decaying bodies and that she was told that the smell was coming from Sowell’s stepmother.

In September 2009 Sowell invited a woman he knew to his home for a drink. On September 22, 2009 she reported to police that after a few drinks, he became angry, hit her, choked her and raped her as she passed out. On October 29, police arrived at his home with a warrant to arrest him for the alleged rape. He was not there, but they found two bodies on the floor in the living room. The bodies of four other women were found throughout the home, buried in a shallow grave in the basement and in crawl spaces in the house. After digging in the backyard, investigators found three more bodies and the remains of a fourth. Police also found a human skull in a bucket inside the house bringing the body count to eleven. Sowell was arrested two days later. Sowell is suspected in many missing persons cases throughout the country as well as overseas during his stint in the marines. On August 12, 2011 Judge Dick Ambrose sentenced Anthony Sowell to death.

How can the unmistakable stench of death be overlooked or explained away? Once again the cries of society’s,”throwaways” again go unheard.  Had it not been for the claims of a politician’s niece, would Sowell still be at large today? I definitely don’t want to visit a city where the smell of death can be ignored as day to day aromas.

The Cleveland Strangler
The Cleveland Strangler

To Protect and Serve….with a Nice Side Dish

In my ongoing search for incidents of depravity perpetrated by people that we share the planet with, I happened upon New York police officer Gilberto Valle. It seems that on Wednesday October 24th, 2012 agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation took Officer Gilberto Valle III into custody after they uncovered several plots to kidnap, rape, cook and eat women, yes EAT WOMEN!!! The Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara filed the official criminal complaint charging Valle, a six year veteran of the force with kidnapping, conspiracy and illegal use of a federal law enforcement database. It is said that Valle utilized NYPD surveillance equipment to keep tabs on his would be victims. In one of the most disturbing and unusual arrests involving a police officer, federal investigators discovered files on Valle’s computer pertaining to at least 100 women, according a law enforcement official, some of them were his classmates from high school.

Cannibal Cop Criminal Complaint

The officer’s estranged wife initially contacted the F.B.I. to report that Valle viewed and kept disturbing items on his computer and feared for the safety of their 1 year old daughter.  On his computer Valle was found to have created a document named,”A Blueprint for Abducting and Cooking.”  The document contained women’s name, birth date and physical details like height, weight and bra size. The evidence against the officer consists largely of e-mails and instant messages in which Officer Valle was “discussing plans to kidnap, rape, torture, kill, cook and eat body parts of a number of women,” according to the complaint. In each case, it appears that the women knew the officer vaguely. And in at least one case, the officer used the National Crime Information Center to get information about a third woman.

On July 19, Officer Valle sent an instant message to the co-conspirator, indicating that he was meeting with “victim-1” three days later, according to the complaint. The victim, who was interviewed in October by the F.B.I., said she had met the officer that day “at a restaurant for lunch,” according to the complaint. What happened during or after the lunch was not disclosed. The U.S. Attorney says federal investigators found evidence of how closely Mr. Valle may have watched intended victims–cellphone data revealed the cop made and received calls while very close to a second target’s Manhattan apartment. Investigators say interviews with “victim 2″ revealed that she’d never had Mr. Valle over to her place and didn’t know him very well. Also found on Valle’s computer were conversations between he and at least 2 co-conspirators as the planned their acts.  Court documents contained a chilling transcript of an online exchange regarding the second would-be victim. Below are actual recordings of Valle and other unnamed would be accomplices taken from chat sessions held in July 2012:

CC-1 (Co-Conspirator 1), Mr. Valle and his associate allegedly discussed the best ways to kidnap, cook and eat an unnamed victim.

CC-2 (Co-Conspirator 2): I definitely want her and how much again, I’m sorry to ask but I don’t remember.

VALLE: $5,000 and she is all yours.

CC-2: Could we do 4?

VALLE: I am putting my neck on the line here. If something goes wrong somehow, I am in deep shit. $ 5,000 and you need to make sure she is not found. She will

definitely make the news.

In other on-line transmissions contained within the criminal complaint, Mr. Valle agreed with another co-conspirator to kidnap a different woman whom he would deliver bound, gagged and alive. Officer Valle offered to kidnap a woman on an unnamed person’s behalf for a price: “$5,000 and she is all yours,” the officer wrote to that person, according to the complaint. Officer Valle appeared to be under the impression that the person he was communicating with intended to rape the woman, according to the complaint. “She will be alive,” he wrote. “I think I would rather not get involved in the rape. You paid for her. She is all yours; I don’t want to be tempted the next time I abduct a girl.” Valle continued, “I was thinking of tying her body onto some kind of apparatus,” he wrote to the co-conspirator in one electronic communication recovered by law enforcement authorities. “Cook her over a low heat; keep her alive as long as possible.” When the co-conspirator asked how big the officer’s oven was, Officer Valle replied, “Big enough to fit one of these girls if I folded their legs.” While the complaint does not identify any of the women in question, F.B.I. agents later learned that cellphone tracking devices indicated that Officer Valle had made or received calls in the areas where the women lived.

Held without bail on charges of federal kidnapping conspiracy by the order of Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman; officer Valle’s trial began in February in the courtroom of Judge Paul Gardephe .  Valle’s wife Kathleen Mangan took the stand, breaking down in sobs as she described discovering her husband’s plot kill her: “I was supposed to be tied by my feet, my throat slit, and they were going to watch the blood rush from my body,” she said. During the trial, the three initial victims, who prosecutors say were Valle’s “intended targets,” testified as did an FBI agent who read excerpts of Valle’s sick web chats in which he described plans to kidnap and barbecue the women who spoke in court.

As the prosecution and defense battled back and forth, the focus of testimony was reality vs. fantasy. An FBI agent took the stand recounting reams of Valle’s sick web chats with fellow fetishists – admitting that those his agency considered “serious” sounded very similar to those considered “fantasy.” Defense attorney Julia Gatto did not deny the evidence against Valle but chose to refer to his comments as “weird proclivities.” Gatto and fellow defense attorney Robert Baum insisted that Valle was just fantasizing and noted that none of the women were ever harmed.

Prosecutors countered that an analysis of Valle’s computer found he was taking concrete steps to abduct his wife and at least five other women he knew. Valle “left the world of fantasy and entered the world of reality,” prosecutor Hadassa Waxman said during closing arguments. She said the officer’s arrest near Halloween last year interrupted a ghoulish plan to “kidnap, torture, rape and commit other horrific acts on young women.”

After 2+ days of deliberation, the jury found officer Gilberto Valle III, guilty of conspiring to kidnap and eat women as well as guilty of wrongfully accessing a federal database. Using words such as solid and damning in reference to the evidence they were presented, the jury’s decision was unanimous. Sentencing is scheduled for June 19th and the former NYPD officer faces a potential life sentence. Many people sentenced to prison write books. I wonder if he plans to share any of his tightly held recipes in a cookbook.

A Murderer’s Request

While receiving my “hands on training,” in criminology in Cook County Department of Corrections, (CCDOC) and Illinois Department of Corrections, (IDOC) I had a “hustle.” A hustle is defined as an unlicensed business entity that generates an income. I would utilize my writing ability to assist other inmates by writing on their behalf to judges requesting leniency in sentencing, receive probation, beg for mercy, etc. Other inmates would purchase my writing services to write girlfriends, wives and others in the outside world for various reasons. The success of my little business gave me the confidence to continue my writing when I was released.

Wright & Peoples at their arrest

One of my previous posts entitled Chicago’s Uncommon Serial Killers; cover the murders of four Chicagoans and the subsequent arrests and convictions of Angel Ford-Wright & Caroline Peoples. Angel and her mother are close friends with my in-laws and during their trial Angel’s mother was my landlord for a while. My wife, being the sweetheart that she is, often brags about my writing ability. One day in 2010 I received a 4 page letter from Angel Ford-Wright requesting my assistance in writing the judge concerning her case and appeal. Her mother even made the offer very enticing by offering much needed finances.

Anyhow, I pondered on what exactly would I write, as well as what Angel was attempting to achieve through such correspondence. At that moment I began to think of the victims. Who could write something on their behalf? No matter how talented I am, there is nothing that I could write to bring them back. Nothing anyone could do could possibly make their families whole again. I abhor & detest murders and murderers. There is not one viable reason, (less self-defense) that one would have for taking the life of another. If I were a family member, friend, or loved one of a victim, I would want pure unadulterated justice. Who am I to even attempt to sway the court and its decision of appropriate punishment? After deep deliberation, I had to decline in assisting Angel.

Integrity is the foundation of a man’s moral capacity. Without integrity, a man, even one professing to be a good one; is only a hypocrite with great intentions. Integrity enables an individual to stand up for his beliefs. My integrity would not allow me to write any correspondence on Angel’s behalf; the load placed on her victims could never be lightened, why should hers be? These women murdered innocent men in the most cowardly fashion possible, a shot to the back of the head.

Am I perfect? No, not even close! Have I broken the law? Yes, countless numbers of times (I even ran a stop sign just this morning). I have done my time for my infractions against the law. During these periods I have seen murderers that express remorse for their victims; more often, I have seen murderers express no remorse and a willingness to commit more heinous violations of the law. I am thankful that during my criminal stage no victims were ever hurt or killed. I am even more thankful for the common sense not to have placed myself in such a situation.

UPDATE: I ran into her mother two days ago…….we still did not speak; c’est la vie.

Angel Ford Wright Today Courtesy IDOC
Angel Ford Wright Today Courtesy IDOC

Serial Murder Revisit Roseland Community

 

The Roseland community in Chicago has had more than their share of serial murder over the years. The new millennium brought to light the serial murderer Geoffrey T. Griffin.  From July of 1998 to July 2000, Griffin used the neighborhoods of the Roseland area of Chicago as his personal killing fields. In a modus operandi familiar among African American serial killers, Geoffrey Griffin would lure area streetwalkers to abandoned buildings in lieu of receiving drugs or cash. Once inside, Griffin would rape then murder his victims. Arrested on June 17, 2000, he was subsequently charged with eight murders and 1 aggravated criminal sexual assaultMany of his charges stem from bodies found long after his arrest.

On September 22, 2005, Judge Fred Suria convicted Griffin of killing Angela Jones after watching a videotape in which he described how he squeezed Jones’ throat during sex after the two smoked crack cocaine.  Judge Suria acquitted him of killing Beverly Burns even though the man’s shirt and jacket were spattered with her blood. The judge said that he was troubled by the lack of evidence at the crime scene against Griffin and by the fact that there was no blood of the victim at the scene. Griffin was sentenced to 100 years in prison on November 06, 2005. Trials for the other murders are forthcoming.

In 2010, serial murder returned to Roseland. Michael Johnson, a 24 year old Roseland resident was arrested on May 22, 2010 and charged with three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder and one count of criminal sexual assault.  Johnson’s DNA was taken and said to have matched at least four unsolved murders in the area. Currently held in Cook County Department of Corrections on no bond, Johnson now 27 is being investigated for additional murders in the Roseland community.

The premise and purpose of writing and publishing, “The Darker Side of Evil,” was to enlighten society of the existence of Black serial killers as well as to advise African-American communities of these predator’s abilities to hide and operate in plain sight.  As usual the victims of these crimes were women. More specifically, women labeled nightwalkers or prostitutes that take to life on the streets by virtue of drug addiction.  Drug addicts and prostitutes are viewed by some as people whose behavior brought their fate upon themselves.  In my book, I pointed that society views these people as “throwaways,” people that society has basically given up on and truthfully wish would fall from the face of the earth anyway.

WE MUST CHANGE THE WAY WE VIEW EACH OTHER. The only time society seems to feel any level of empathy is when a problem affects us directly. We as a civilized society must change our judgmental views of each other and begin to care for something outside of ourselves. The devil cannot exist and operate if we keep an eye out for the well-being of the people around us. He thrives on our selfishness and inability to concern with the issues of the people we see and interact with daily. As long as we continue to do what we’ve always done, we will continue to get what we’ve always gotten.