EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — An Ohio man possibly influenced by a serial killer was charged Monday with aggravated murder after three bodies wrapped in trash bags were found in suburban Cleveland.
A call to police Friday led authorities to a home and a standoff with the man, who was eventually taken into custody, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said.
Michael Madison, 35, was charged with three counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping. He didn’t enter a plea at a brief court appearance where bail was set at $6 million. He also waived his right to a preliminary hearing.
Police and volunteers scoured about 40 empty homes Sunday until their search was suspended, with no immediate plans to resume.
Authorities said they had identified only one of the victims, Angela Deskins, who was believed to be 38 years old. The other two bodies were too badly decomposed to identify. The medical examiner also said he couldn’t determine at this time a cause of death because of the bodies’ conditions.
Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner Thomas Gilson said fingerprints, dental records and DNA genetic material would be used to try to identify the other two victims. One had numerous tattoos, including the left thumb, left forearm, left thigh and left breast.
At some point, Gilson said, his office might seek DNA samples from relatives of missing women who might be victims.
Ali Bilal, 31, of East Cleveland, sitting in the neighborhood where the bodies were found, said he knew Deskins casually and called her friendly and nice to be around.
“I knew her as a nice person. We spoke here and there, she used to come over and talk to my brother,” he said. “For the most part, she was a sweetheart, real nice conversation, pretty much a good person to talk to, good person to be around.”
He wasn’t familiar with her personal life.
The mayor has said the suspect indicated he might have been influenced by the earlier case of a Cleveland serial killer convicted in the deaths of 11 women.
Norton thanked law enforcement agencies for their help. Without it, he said, “We might not have accomplished the apprehension of a suspect who we believe if left on the street just one day longer may have put the lives of others in danger.”
The first body was found in a garage Friday. Two others were found Saturday – one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The bodies, all women, were found about 100 to 200 yards apart, and authorities say the victims were killed in the previous six to 10 days.
The charges read in court specified a wider time frame for the alleged crimes – days or months before the bodies were found. The mayor and police chief left a news conference without taking questions on the timing of the alleged crimes.
Each body was wrapped in a plastic bag in the fetal position. “It didn’t look like a person could actually fit in the bag,” said East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts.
Police and volunteers spent all day Sunday searching for more evidence, until their search was suspended, Spotts said. Norton said Monday that no additional bodies were found, but Spotts stressed that the investigation remained open.
It’s the third recent high-profile case in the Cleveland area that involves missing women.
In May, three women who separately vanished about a decade ago were found captive in a run-down house. Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, has been charged with nearly 1,000 counts of kidnap, rape and other crimes and has pleaded not guilty.
Castro is accused of repeatedly restraining the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The charges say one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck. He also fathered a daughter with one captive, authorities said.
In 2009, Anthony Sowell was arrested after a woman escaped from his house and said she had been raped there. Police found the mostly nude bodies of 11 women throughout the home.
Sowell’s victims ranged in age from 24 to 52, all were recovering or current drug addicts and most died of strangulation; some had been decapitated, and others were so badly decomposed that coroners couldn’t say with certainty how they died.
He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to death.
The crimes are affecting the image people have of Cleveland, said East Cleveland resident Ali Bilal.
“They’re thinking it’s one of those places that you don’t want to go,” he said. “It’s like a horror show.”