Sentencing day 6: Anthony Sowell trial
08/08/2011 by Jen Steer, newsnet5.com
A Cuyahoga County jury will continue to hear from witnesses in the sentencing phase for convicted killer of 11 Anthony Sowell.
Last month, that same jury found the 51-year-old guilty on 82 of 83 counts, including aggravated murder. Now, jurors must determine if Sowell gets life in prison or the death penalty.
“It’s not normal for an 11 year old to have sex with 10-year-old niece,” social worker Lori James-Townes said. “There were high levels of promiscuity that are also red flags.” She also indicated that Sowell grew up in a house full of drug use, sexual abuse, incest and physical abuse….
“Essentially, he has indications of brain dysfunction,” said Dr. Watson, a forensic neuropsychologist. Dr. Woods, who is a forensic psychiatrist, said Sowell suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and psychosis….
Sowell is on the witness stand, answering questions from his defense attorney John Parker. He will not be cross-examined by the prosecution.
“She sexually abused me,” Sowell said, after an much older relative. “No, I don’t want to talk about that… There was a lot of sexual activity going on there.”
…”And it’s because of this abuse and this miserable, sad life he murdered 11 women?” assistant prosecutor Pinkey Carr said.
“That’s not just the only reason… There are multiple reasons,” James Townes said. She continues to emphasis the need for context, saying that abuse was just one of the factors over the course of Anthony Sowell’s life that resulted in murder. She points to sexual abuse, a strained relationship with his mother and witnessing other children being abused among the cause. The sexual abuse in the home reportedly started when some of the children were just 10 or 11 years old.
“It’s extremely underreported, I can’t say that enough,” James-Townes said. “The children were afraid. The children, the ones who did tell were beaten.”
…”When children are growing up in this type of situation, it impacts them in a variety of ways,” Lori James-Townes said. “It makes him susceptible to violence later in life.”
“There should be an assessment made when you see certain risk factors,” she said, referring to Anthony Sowell’s school records….
“Childhood abuse is the biggest red flag for adult criminal behavior,” James-Townes said. “The sad thing about this is trauma is extremely treatable… The problem comes in when they don’t get treated.” She said that telling the story is one of the most helpful ways to treat someone who has suffered trauma.
“We know that most people in prison, men or women, has suffered some sort of abuse,” she said. According to James- Townes, there is no therapy in prison, but they focus on reprogramming the individuals….
According to James-Townes, research shows that child abuse is severely underreported and that it’s not uncommon for people to not talk about the abuse until they are adults. She said she used a genogram to help explain the risk factors in Sowell’s childhood. A genogram is a visual depiction and a snapshot of a person’s family.
While pointing to the chart, James-Townes explains that Sowell’s paternal side of the family had a history of substance abuse and heart disease. The genogram goes back four or five generations, which James-Townes said is very uncommon to find those kinds of records.
On his mother’s side, the chart shows that Anthony Sowell was 17 years younger than his sister, Patricia. She said there were pregnancies when female family members when they were 12 and 15. Other risk factors include epilepsy, sexual abuse and mental problems….
James-Townes said that they need to pay particular attention to the trauma and abuse he suffered growing up, and the the abuse that people around him went through. Based on interviews with family, she said that Sowell kept to himself as a child and was isolated, despite going to school nearly everyday.
“It’s not normal for an 11 year old to have sex with 10-year-old niece,” she said. “There were high levels of promiscuity that are also red flags.”