Also missing in the Sowell case: accountability at City Hall – Andrea Simakis

August 19, 2018 GMT

Also missing in the Sowell case: accountability at City Hall – Andrea Simakis

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- You’ve been diagnosed with a debilitating disease and consult a team of specialists.

They examine you, and using cutting-edge medical research, draw up a treatment plan.

You thank them — and stuff it in drawer. Years later, sick as ever, you feed it into a shredder.

As absurd as it sounds, this may well be what the city of Cleveland did with an FBI examination of the case of Anthony Sowell.

Sometime after the bodies of 11 women were discovered in Sowell’s makeshift graveyard on Imperial Avenue in October 2009, FBI analysts, versed in the psychology of psychopaths, from Ted Bundy to Jeffrey Dahmer, reviewed the handling of the Sowell investigation by Cleveland police.

They made recommendations, presumably to aid local cops in preventing more serial murders, sexual assaults and kidnappings.


And Cleveland police clearly needed the help.

Relatives of Sowell’s victims said police didn’t take their missing-person reports seriously. One woman Sowell attacked escaped and flagged down a police car, marks from his fingers still around her throat. Despite her report, Sowell, a registered sex offender, was released from jail without charges and went on to kill several others. 

As a woman in Cleveland, I’d love to know what those FBI profilers said. But no one in the Mayor’s Office or the Cleveland Division of Police can tell me. 

The FBI report surfaced as part of more than two dozen reforms proposed by the Special Commission on Missing Persons and Sex Crimes Investigations in 2010. 

Mayor Frank Jackson appointed the three-woman commission to assess the city’s policies and practices in handling missing persons and sex crimes cases — policies and practices that had arguably allowed Sowell to kidnap, rape and kill, undetected, for years — and to recommend changes.

Some were painfully obvious. Take No. 6, that urged the city to “immediately” provide all sex crimes detectives with e-mail accounts and cell phones.

Other reforms spoke to the need for cops to receive mandatory training in taking reports and for detectives to work more closely with prosecutors. 

But No. 26, the last of the commission’s suggested remedies, was the most intriguing: “Implement recommendations from the study of the Sowell case conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.”

According to Mayor Frank Jackson, that had been done. The city “had complied with” all of the commission’s suggestions, he said.

He made the claim in March during a press conference to answer questions about stunning reports that 60 sex crimes cases had gone uninvestigated for years. 

The suspect in at least one of them committed another rape.


Thanks to those 26 reforms, Jackson said, the city had given sex crimes detectives all the tools they needed to do their jobs. The five dozen neglected cases, alarming as they were, weren’t the norm, he said. One detective and two supervisors were to blame.

To see the full video, click here.

Curious about what the nation’s top cops had advised Cleveland cops to do, I requested the FBI study and recommendations from the city. 

“The document is no longer available and may have been destroyed under Schedule No. 95-42 of the Citywide record schedule (Management Reports older than 5 years),” I was told. “You may try requesting the document directly from the FBI.”

Fair enough. If Cleveland saved every slip of paper, City Hall would look like one giant Granny attic. 

But even if the FBI’s work had been shredded, the information was still available, right? 

After all, the mayor had said some sort of FBI blueprint for police had been adopted, along with the commission’s 25 other reforms.

In May, I asked for an interview — could someone in city government or Cleveland police walk me through the FBI’s ideas?

Getting no answer, I tried again in July, requesting that the mayor, his Safety Director Michael McGrath or a designated representative speak to me about the FBI study.

On Aug. 7, I received a familiar reply:

“The document is no longer available and may have been destroyed . . .” 

“Hope this is helpful. If you need anything further please let us know,” wrote Daniel Williams, director of media relations for the office of the mayor.

I followed up, reminding him I was no longer after paperwork but a person — anyone — who could discuss how the city used the FBI’s data.

I’m still waiting — nearly three months and counting.

In the meantime, I requested the records from the FBI; I hope to see them before the Earth’s glaciers melt.

But that doesn’t let the city — or the mayor — off the hook. 

Does the radio silence mean those FBI recommendations, despite Jackson’s assurances, were never implemented? 

If not, why not?

Women in Cleveland would love to know.