Rape victim hostile during questioning in Strangler trial

Wednesday's testimony began shortly after 8AM after a parade of witnesses - mainly victims' family members - took the stand Tuesday in the Cleveland Strangler trial.

A rape victim was the first person to take the stand. She managed to escape the home of accused serial killer Anthony Sowell by leaping from the second story of his Imperial Avenue home.

At one point, the witness became hostile with the defense's line of questioning, and had to be scolded by the judge. She said she was being asked "stupid questions" and didn't understand how they pertained to the matter at hand.

The questioning was contentious as the defense asked about discrepancies between her testimony and statements made to police. The woman testified that she spent most of the night partying with Anthony Sowell. The defense contends that she went willingly with the accused serial killer.

She says she was forced into the home before she was attacked. The defense asked why she didn't tell anyone of the attack. City workers were nearby when she jumped, she says she didn't yell because he had told her he would have her killed if she talked.

The woman then called the defense attorney an idiot, and told him to get his facts straight. She says she did what she had to do to survive. She told no one at the hospital that she had been raped, and told her family that her injuries came from being hit by a car. The witness says she was traumatized by the attack, her injuries and his threats. That is why she was deceptive.

"Don't play with me, OK? This is my life, not yours. And I did what I had to do to save it," the woman said. "I know you're not hatin'."

"So this man who threatened your life, you had those city workers right out in front, you couldn't scream for help then?" the defense asked.

"I was trying to save my own life, I was trying to get away alive. Not in one piece, alive," she replied.

She didn't learn until later that Sowell had actually gone with her in an ambulance to the hospital and claimed to be her husband. She says he even called her after she had been in the hospital several days. He identified himself and she says she hung up.

As the woman left the stand, she flipped her middle finger in the direction of the defense table.

Fawcett Bess, owner of a pizza restaurant across the street from Sowell's home, was next to take the stand.

Prosecutors questioned Bess about the day the first witness jumped out Sowell's window. Bess says he saw a naked Sowell and the naked woman in the driveway. She was unconscious and he was trying to get her into the house.

He ran to Sowell and said, "What did you do Anthony?" He says Sowell told him, "It's cool." Bess said,"No it's not, she's all bloody."

He says Sowell took the woman back into his home. He estimates emergency crews didn't get there for an hour or so. Bess did not see the woman fall, only the aftermath and Sowell's actions.

Bess says another woman in the neighborhood showed him injuries to her neck as the two talked about Sowell. He said that at the time he didn't believe the women, but does now. The conversation was a couple of weeks before the other woman escaped from Sowell's home through the window.

Following the morning break, the defense objected to the introduction of a picture obtained by 19 Action News of a naked Sowell standing with a woman. The defense says they have never seen the picture and called it a "surprise." Judge Ambrose said the picture has been in the public domain for some time, therefore it is not a surprise and can be admitted. Prosecutors say witnesses will testify they learned of the Sowell case on TV and they will identify the picture as something they saw.

Next on the stand was Donald Laster. He owns property on Imperial Avenue, and was one of the first on the scene after the rape victim jumped from the second floor of Sowell's home.

Laster says he saw the woman lying on the ground "moaning not moving." Then Sowell came around the corner naked "crab walking" - Laster says crab walking is a football term, and demonstrated it for the court. He was crouched low, as if to avoid detection.

Laster says Sowell said she was his wife and she fell out of the window while having sex. He said Sowell wanted to take her inside and he threatened Sowell, "Don't do it or I'll kick your a**."

Laster says EMS arrived quickly after his 911 call. As they pulled up, Sowell ran off carrying the woman. Laster says he put his foot in the door so Sowell couldn't close the door. He and a fireman went in, Sowell dropped the woman with a thud.

Laster identified a picture first seen on 19 Action News as how he learned of the mass murders. It shows Sowell and the woman naked.

The defense then questioned Laster about his past conviction for drugs and firearms in 1997.

LeRoy Bates, Sr. was next on the stand. He was also in the area when the woman jumped from Sowell's window. Bates says he confronted Sowell as he tried to move the woman, and threatened him if he continued. Sowell told him to "leave us alone." Bates says he doesn't believe Sowell was trying to help the woman, rather just trying to hide her.

Vance Adams was the third of the three men who saw Sowell and the woman naked to take the stand late Wednesday morning. He confirmed what the others said.

The first person on the stand following the lunch break was a hospital nurse who specializes in handling sex assault victims.

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.

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