The first full day of testimony in the Cleveland Strangler trial.
As is often the case, the first few witnesses in a trial are called to set groundwork for what is to come. But even in that, 19 Action News learned that there were early clues that something was wrong on Imperial Avenue, and that there were family rifts developing over accused serial killer Anthony Sowell.
All of the witnesses did not want to be photographed. So 19 Action News got a long look at Sowell's reactions to what was said.
As his stepmother's mother was asked to identify him, he stood. The 89-year-old warmly greeted him.
The hint of trouble in the family came from Sowell's half brother, who said Anthony had stopped paying rent to his stepmom for his third floor dwelling, and she was getting ready to have him evicted, but she became ill and was hospitalized. Her mother was on the stand and told jurors that another grandson told her he had visited the home and reported odors.
But a nearby store owner was the most damaging witness.
"Did you ever notice a smell or an odor?" asked the prosecutor.
"Oh, geez. Oh, yea, that smell forget about it," said store owner Assad "Sam" Tayeh.
"When did it start?" the prosecutor asked.
"Oh, a long time ago. It started....from 2004 and up...2005. I don't remember the exact date but it was a very, very bad smell," Tayeh said. "So I walked to the dumpster I open it and the smell is so bad and I saw like a garbage bag with duct tape and I close it very fast."
Tayeh said he also sold Sowell heavy-duty garbage bags.
Sowell faces the death penalty if convicted of murdering eleven women. The bodies of the victims were found in and around Sowell's Imperial Avenue home in late 2009.