CLEVELAND — Local women's groups held a protest at the now-vacant site on Imperial Avenue on Cleveland's East Side, where 11 women were murdered at the hands of convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell.
Sowell was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 in connection with the murders, which took place at his now-demolished home.
Kathy Wray Coleman with the Imperial Women Coalition said the protest was set up to remember the 11 victims. It was also created to bring awareness to growing domestic violence and take issue with a judicial system that will likely give Sowell several additional years to appeal his death sentence.
“It’s disgraceful, we called for closure in this case," Coleman said.
“11 women murdered, it’s been 11 years, we’re tired, you know if we’re tired the families are tired," Coleman said.
“It shouldn’t take 11 years to get closure on a serial murderer.”
“And if every time a man kills a woman, he can continue to get appeal, after appeal, after appeal, after exhausting the remedies, we’ll never get closure.”
Delores Gray, CEO of the Brickhouse Wellness Women's Empowerment Group, said the protest also gave women the chance to express their disappointment that plans for a memorial park for the 11 victims have so far not materialized.
“City of Cleveland ought to be ashamed of themselves, they need to be taking an active role in this," Gray said.
“The court system, the judicial system, they need to wake-up.”
Katherine Mullin, Assistant Supervisor of the Appellate Unit with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, said Sowell could have several additional years of appeals in the federal court system.
“He lost in the trial court, he lost just this year in the appellate court, and now he’s asking the Ohio Supreme Court to take another look at it,“ Mullin said. "We’ve opposed his request in the Ohio Supreme Court, the court has not decided yet whether or not they are going to take the case.”
“It's really frustrating for victims' families and for the public as a whole, especially in a case like this. “I think we’re still years off before an execution date for Anthony Sowell," Mullin said.
The protest also served to outline significant federal funding cuts that have cost the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center nearly 3 million in funding in just the past 8 months.
Melissa Graves, CEO of the Journey Center for Safety and Healing, said growing domestic violence is an issue that must be addressed, as calls for help to her agency increased by 80% since the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown started in March.
“This event is very emotional, being here, my heart is pounding, it's really powerful,” Graves said. “We can’t tolerate violence against women, we cannot ignore violence against women, or pretend that it’s not happening because it’s happening every day.”