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Despite $1 million settlement, Cleveland still faces another lawsuit from Anthony Sowell’s victims

September 27, 2018

Despite $1 million settlement, Cleveland still faces another lawsuit from Anthony Sowell’s victims

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Despite the city of Cleveland agreeing to pay a combined $1 million to the families of each of the six women murdered by Anthony Sowell, more of his victims are still pursuing claims against the former sex crimes detective who they say botched a case that could have prevented additional assaults and deaths.

Former Cleveland police detective Georgia Hussein, represented by city attorneys, still faces a lawsuit by two women attacked by Sowell, including one who triggered an investigation that went nowhere, led to Sowell’s release and gave him the ability to commit more murders.

In that instance, Gladys Wade ran up to a Cleveland police car to find help, and Sowell was arrested. However, shoddy detective work by Hussein led police to release Sowell without criminal charges, Wade’s lawsuit says.

It would be several more months and several more murders until police started another investigation, which led to their discovery of 10 bodies and a skull in and around Sowell’s Imperial Avenue house in the city’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

In that time period, another woman named Latundra Billups, another plaintiff in the lawsuit, was raped and assaulted by Sowell, the suit says.

Wade and Billups filed suit in 2010 and 2011. Now combined into one case, they are still seeking justice, said their attorney Blake Dickson. Their lawsuit against Hussein, who now lives in California, was supposed to go to trial on Sept. 17, but Dickson said he dismissed and immediately re-filed it to give him more time to respond to deposition requests.

The city this week moved the lawsuit to federal court, though Dickson said he will ask a judge to send it back to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, where his and other cases were heard for years.

Dickson characterized the city’s attempt to move the case to federal court as a delay tactic and that “not settling with these ladies, and dragging things out of for eight years of litigation, is despicable.” He added that he and the city have held settlement talks.

A city spokesman declined comment, saying it does not discuss ongoing litigation.

Sowell, 59, was convicted in 2011 of raping and strangling 11 women and storing their bodies in and around in his home. He was also convicted of charges related to Hussein and Billups. He was sentenced to death, though the Ohio Supreme Court has not set his execution date.

In addition to the $1 million the city agreed to pay to the families of six of Sowell’s victims — all of whom died after Wade went to Cleveland police in December 2008 — the city also settled a claim made by the family of Sowell victim Crystal Dozier for $2,500, according to lawyer Sara Gedeon.

Gedeon said the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner estimated that Dozier died before Sowell assaulted Wade, which made their case more problematic.

All of the cases were heavily litigated for years, and claims against Hussein were the only ones that survived reviews by the 8th Ohio District Court of Appeals and the Ohio Supreme Court. Two families also dropped their cases before trial, as evidence did not show that the victims died before the attack on Wade.

Wade’s and Billups’ lawsuit says that Wade ran up to a police car on Dec. 8, 2008 and told them that Sowell had just tried to kill her. Patrol officers tracked down Sowell and arrested him. They found ample physical evidence both on Sowell, Wade and in the house of a struggle, the lawsuit says. 

The case was assigned to Hussein, who later admitted in a sworn statement that she failed to review the evidence gathered by patrol officers before she took the case to assistant city prosecutor Lorraine Coyne. Both decided there were insufficient evidence to charge Sowell, who had served 15 years in prison on prior rape conviction and was a registered sex offender.

Sowell was released two days after his arrest. He attacked Latundra Billups in September 2009, the suit states.

Had the city “not acted recklessly by releasing Sowell back into the community, ... Plaintiff Latundra Billups would not have been one of Anthony Sowell’s victims and Plaintiff Gladys Wade would have suffered extreme psychological agony, arising from the awareness that Anthony Sowell was at large she (and) she was in danger,” the suit states.

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