CLEVELAND – Police say there's only one way for the families of missing women to know for sure if their loved ones are among the victims found in suspected serial killer Anthony Sowell's house: Give DNA samples. But relatives with checkered pasts in the hardscrabble neighborhood seem reluctant to come forward.
Area pastors are urging families to provide DNA samples that could help the coroner's office identify the remains of eight black women, saying that nearly two dozen others are still missing in southeast Cleveland. The coroner's office, meanwhile, tried to calm concerns by promising the samples would not be shared with police.
"The only way we are going to get closure is to find out who these victims are," said City Councilman Zach Reed.
Police and a cadaver dog re-entered the house Thursday where Sowell apparently lived among the reeking, rotting corpses of 10 women and the paper-wrapped skull of another that authorities found in a bucket. The ex-Marine, who served 15 years in prison for attempted rape, is being held without bail on five aggravated murder charges.
In response to messages asking how the investigation would proceed on Friday, a police spokesman e-mailed a brief note stating only that a news release would be issued late in the morning.
So far only three victims have been identified: Tonia Carmichael, 52, of Warrensville Heights; Telacia Fortson, 31, of Cleveland; and Tishana Culver, 31, also of Cleveland.
If people are hesitant to reach out directly to police or the coroner's office, Reed said they should contact him or a pastor.
Stanley Miller, executive director of the NAACP in Cleveland, said people concerned about turning over their DNA to authorities might be reassured by the coroner's offer to use the DNA only for the purpose of identifying victims.
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