Evidence search resumes at Cleveland bodies house

CLEVELAND (AP) - Investigators used shovels, a sledgehammer and a concrete-busting drill Wednesday in a renewed search of the home of a registered sex offender where 10 bodies and a skull have been found, but police said no additional bodies were found.

Searchers with plastic gloves, surgical-style masks and head-to-toe hazardous-materials protective suits concentrated on the yard, house and second-floor balconies of Anthony Sowell's inner-city home and an adjacent yard. They combed the area for much of the day before hauling off carpeting and a van full of evidence bags.

No additional search is planned, said police Lt. Thomas Stacho said.

After five hours of the renewed search, a coroner's office van loaded with evidence bags left the scene and returned within an hour. It left again near sundown, carrying another half load of evidence bags.

Searchers dug for evidence in the yards and used the sledgehammer and drill to rip up concrete under the rear porch. In the front of the house, a crew drilled into the ceiling of a second-floor open-air balcony as onlookers watched across the street.

They also sawed off a portion of a porch railing that held a sign saying "The Sowell's" and the address.

Investigators with the city police and buildings department, FBI and coroner's office had search warrants to dig by hand in areas of interest identified last week by FBI thermal-imaging and radar technology.

Thermal imaging can detect heat sources like decomposing materials and loosely packed ground that might indicate a grave. Dirt that has been turned over radiates heat differently than compacted soil.

In addition, police bomb-squad X-ray apparatus and miniature probing cameras were sent to the scene to help with a search inside walls and the like, Stacho said.

In front of the neatly painted house, two investigators removed a wooden grill from the side of the porch and crawled under. A police command post was parked outside the house, which has remained taped off and under 24-hour police guard as a crime scene.

Paul Giannelli, a law school professor at Case Western Reserve University, said police often will seek a new warrant to reflect the scope of an expanded search. "It's certainly better to do that. They obviously have probable cause for a more extensive search," he said.

Sowell, 50, has been charged with five counts of aggravated murder and, separately, with rape and kidnapping in an alleged Sept. 22 attack that led to the initial search of his home Oct. 29. He served 15 years in prison for a 1989 attempted rape.

There has been no response to an Associated Press interview request mailed two weeks ago to Sowell at the county jail. His attorney in the September case, Brian McGraw, said he couldn't comment.

On Saturday, FBI agents used rakes and shovels in Sowell's backyard, crawled beneath the front porch and removed bricks and other debris. An agent marked locations with orange paint, apparently for closer investigation.

One day earlier, agents worked at a house next door to Sowell's, doing thermal imaging, X-rays and other tests.

Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave after officers came to investigate a woman's report that she had been raped there. Sowell had fled the home and was arrested two days later.

Ten of the 11 victims, all women, have been identified. All were black and many were homeless or living alone and had drug or alcohol addictions. Most apparently had been strangled.

Sowell has been accused of luring women to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Authorities say he then strangled them and left their bodies in his house or buried in the backyard, apparently creating a recurring stench often blamed on a nearby sausage shop.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)