Bittersweet: Identity Of Cleveland Strangler's First Victim Released

Tonia Carmichael
Tonia Carmichael

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -  The Cuyahoga County Coroner's Office has identified the first victim found at 12205 Imperial through DNA evidence.

Cleveland Police Homicide Detectives, accompanied by a representative from Mental Health Services Violent Loss Response Team, made a notification to the family of Tonia Carmichael on Wednesday afternoon.

"It was just a gut feeling I had that I had not experienced this whole year she'd been missing," said Carmichael's daughter, Donnita. "It just felt like this could very well be it."

The 52-year-old was reported missing in Warrensville Heights on November 10, 2008.

Her body was the first to be recovered from the Cleveland Strangler's backyard.

"There is still a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of unanswered questions that need to be addressed. Until the family of the victims get the closure they seek and ultimately the justice they deserve, this case will continue to be our focus.  My thoughts, prayers and deepest condolences go out to the Carmichael family, friends and relatives," said Mayor Frank G. Jackson.

The Division of Police plans to execute a warrant to take DNA from Sowell. His DNA will be compared against known suspect DNA profiles to determine whether he is a suspect in any other criminal matter.

"It appears that this man had an insatiable appetite that he had to fill," according to Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath.

A total of ten bodies and a skull have been found on the Imperial Avenue property.  Police say eight of the victims had been strangled. "Seven of the victims still had something tied around their necks," said Cuyahoga County Coroner, Frank Miller.

Miller said two of the other victims died due to "homicidal violence."

The cause of death has not been determined for the 11th victim.

The coroner's office is seeking more DNA samples to help identify the victims.  If you have a missing loved one the coroner is asking family members to contact either the Cleveland Police Department or the coroner's office at (216) 721-5610.

For years, Sowell's neighbors thought the foul smell on their street corner had been coming from Ray's Sausage, a business on the corner. The smell was so bad that a call was even put in to the Health Department.

In an effort to help remedy what they thought the smell was, the owners of Ray's Sausage replaced their sewer line at one point.

Anthony Sowell was arraigned Wednesday on five counts of Aggravated Murder.  He was remanded to the County Jail with no bond.

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