Arrest after bodies found in bags

By Thomas Sheeran

Michael Madison was classified as a sex offender in 2002. Photo / AP
Michael Madison was classified as a sex offender in 2002. Photo / AP

Authorities who found the bodies of three women in garbage bags in a low-income Ohio neighbourhood after complaints over a bad smell ended a daylong search without finding other victims. A registered sex offender was in custody.

East Cleveland police chief Ralph Spotts had warned searchers to be prepared to find one or two more victims, but he declined to elaborate.

The discovery was the Cleveland area's latest high-profile case of missing women. Earlier this year, three women in an unrelated case were found and freed after being held captive in a home for years.

Spotts identified the suspect as 35-year-old Michael Madison and said he was expected to be formally charged today.

Mayor Gary Norton said the suspect indicated he might have been influenced by Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of murdering 11 women and sentenced to death. Sowell was arrested after a woman escaped from his house and said she had been raped. Police found the 11 women's mostly nude bodies in garbage bags and plastic sheets throughout the home.

In this latest case, one body was found on Saturday in a garage. Two others were found on Sunday - one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The three female bodies, all wrapped in plastic bags, were found about 182m apart, and authorities believed the victims were killed in the past six to 10 days.

Spotts said the suspect's comments had not provided clarity on whether more bodies might be found.

"He really hasn't stated that there's any more, but he hasn't said anything that would make us think that there's not," Spotts said.

Yesterday's search included 40 vacant houses. Authorities wanted to be thorough, the mayor said.

Cuyahoga County medical examiner Dr Thomas Gilson said the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition and it would take several days to identify them and how they died.

Madison was classified as a sex offender in 2002 when he was sentenced to four years in prison for attempted rape, according to Cuyahoga County court records. He had previous convictions in 2000 and 2001 for drug-related charges.

One neighbour, Nathenia Crosby, said she knew Madison and had seen him walking through the neighbourhood. She said she had told him to stop chatting to her 19-year-old daughter.

"When I found out how old he was, I said, 'You need to move on, she's too young,"' Crosby said.

In May this year, a woman missing for a decade escaped from a run-down Cleveland home, saying she and two other women had been held captive there for years. Former school bus driver Ariel Castro was later charged with kidnapping, rape and other crimes.

He has pleaded not guilty.

- AP

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