Cleveland has agreed to pay $1 million to the families of six women who fell victim to serial killer Anthony Sowell after a botched police investigation into a 2008 rape accusation allowed Sowell to walk out of jail with no charges, Cleveland.com reports. The families of Nancy Cobbs, Telacia Fortson, Amelda Hunter, Le’Shanda Long, Diane Turner, and Janice Webb will divide the $1 million equally to settle a lawsuit that was filed in 2010, dismissed by a judge in 2014 and revived by an appeals court last year. Cleveland agreed to reimburse the families’ lawyers for the cost of bringing the eight-year lawsuit. Sowell was convicted in 2011 of raping and strangling 11 women and storing their bodies in and around in his home. His case is on appeal. The lawsuit was set to go to trial Tuesday.
The settlement marks the latest major payout by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration to settle a lawsuit alleging misconduct by police officers. Since 2004, the city has paid more than $21 million to settle such lawsuits. Another $17.7 million in pending judgments in two police misconduct cases from 1999 and 2012 is being challenged in appeals courts. The case could pave the way for crime victims to sue police officers who failed in their duty to protect the public from foreseeable harm, said Terry Gilbert, a lawyers who worked on the case. “This lawsuit wasn’t so much about money as it was about making sure that the system was held accountable,” Gilbert said. The suit revolves a Dec. 8, 2008 report from Gladys Wade, who told police officers that Sowell had just attacked and raped her. The suit charged that police failed to conduct a thorough investigation into Wade’s complaint and that they could have charged Sowell, held him in custody and prevented him from carrying out several of the murders.