I-TEAM: Years after serial killer, lawsuit settlement made with city

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CLEVELAND -- Multiple sources confirm to the FOX 8 I-TEAM, there's new fallout from the case of serial killer Anthony Sowell. Now, nearly a decade after the case, we’ve learned 6 families of the women killed have reached a tentative agreement to settle civil lawsuits with the City of Cleveland.

The agreement calls for the families to split a total of $1 million.

Sowell sits on death row convicted of killing 11 women. The families of the victims sued the city, claiming police could have done more to get Sowell off the streets before he killed all of those women.

At one point, police had arrested Sowell for an attack on a woman who fought him off, but investigators released him from jail with no charges, believing they didn’t have enough evidence in that case. The dead bodies were found in Sowell’s home long after that.

Attorneys involved in the settlement aren’t commenting. An announcement is expected Monday. That is the day the civil claims had been set for trial.

Meantime, relatives of some of the victims are frustrated because some families were not included in the settlement.

Donnita Carmichael’s mother was killed by Anthony Sowell. Carmichael said, "Nine years later, it's horrific to even think about making a settlement with six families and leaving five out."

A key question surrounding the lawsuits involves trying to determine exactly when each victim died. But Carmichael argues, that shouldn’t matter since she believes the justice system failed in a number of ways. She added, "There's nobody who ever gave us a definite death date for any of our families. 11 of them.”

Nonetheless, this case will not end even with the new developments. Lawyers for two women who survived attacks by Anthony Sowell just refiled a lawsuit. They couldn’t reach a deal with the city, so they are pressing their civil suits.

One survivor told the I-TEAM, "I think it's disrespectful. It's hurtful.” She added, "It's thrown back in my face after all these years. And just when I think I'm getting past it, it comes back up again."

Cleveland City Hall also has not commented on the settlement.

The payout would be much smaller than some settlements we’ve seen between the city and families of crime victims or encounters with police. After attorney fees and dividing up the settlement money, each family may only end up with about $100,000.

Again, Donnita Carmichael won’t be part of that. But she says she hopes whatever happens in court helps to close gaps in the justice system. She said, "And it still is broken, and I don’t see it being fixed anytime soon."

All these years have passed since the crimes, and civil suits are just now being settled and refiled. And, Anthony Sowell still sits on death row waiting for his appeals to pay out.

Continuing coverage here.

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