CLEVELAND (AP) - Ohio must close a loophole in a sex offender notification law that left neighbors of a Cleveland man suspected of killing 11 women unaware of his criminal past, state lawmakers say.
Neighbors of Anthony Sowell weren't told he is a sexual offender because he registered before 2008, when Ohio's registration laws changed. As a result, many were surprised when Sowell was arrested last year and accused of killing 11 women and dumping their remains around his home.
State Sen. Shirley Smith, a Democrat from Cleveland, has introduced a bill that would require county sheriffs to go back and look for sex offenders whose presence in a community had not be announced.
Lt. Donald Michalosky of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office, which tracks sex offenders in the Cleveland area, told a Senate committee that the bill would help prevent offenders from falling through the cracks and living in communities unnoticed.
Michalosky said Sowell complied with registration rules. But because he hadn't changed addresses since 2008, when Ohio reclassified sex offenders, a notice to the community wasn't required.
Although Tier III offenders - the most dangerous, a class that includes Sowell - are required to tell the county sheriff every 90 days where they are living, a rule requiring the sheriff to send out notifications to area residents about the person applies only to newly registered offenders.
Smith's bill to update the notification process has bipartisan support.
Sen. Tim Grendell, a Republican who is chairman of Senate Judiciary-Criminal Justice Committee, said he would like the proposal to move forward.
"Who's going to argue the Sowells of the world should be allowed to victimize women in the community like that?" Grendell said.
Sowell, 50, has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Sowell lured vulnerable women to his home with the promise of alcohol or drugs. Police discovered the first two bodies and a freshly dug grave after officers went to investigate a woman's report that she had been raped there.
Since the bodies were found in November, he has been charged with attacking five other women who survived.