By Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) – A man authorities have compared to an Ohio serial killer pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to charges he killed three women and left their bodies wrapped in plastic bags near his suburban Cleveland apartment.
Michael Madison, 35, appeared in a Cleveland courtroom on 14 charges including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping. Two of the victims were strangled, authorities said. The cause of death of the third has not yet been determined.
During his initial interrogation, law enforcement officials said that Madison invoked the name of Anthony Sowell, a notorious Cleveland man convicted in 2011 for raping and murdering 11 women by strangling them with shoe laces, cords and clothing. Sowell is on death row.
Sowell buried some of the bodies of his victims in his backyard, leaving others unburied and wrapped in plastic bags in different rooms of his home.
A grand jury on Monday indicted Madison. He was convicted of rape in 2002, according to court documents.
Prosecutors said they have not yet decided whether to seek the death penalty for Madison, who appeared before a judge via video on Wednesday, handcuffed and wearing a short-sleeved orange prison jumpsuit.
When asked how he was feeling, Madison told Cuyahoga County Judge Burneside, “I’ve been better.”
Police found the bodies of Shirellda Terry, 18, Shetisha Sheeley, 28, and Angela Deskins, 38 wrapped in plastic bags beginning on July 19. Police discovered Terry’s body on July 19 after neighbors complained of a foul stench coming from the garage behind Madison’s East Cleveland apartment.
Madison was arrested after a two-hour stand-off with police and the bodies of the other women were discovered nearby.
Madison has been held on $6 million bail in the same prison as Ariel Castro, a former Cleveland school bus driver who pleaded guilty last week to kidnapping, raping and holding captive three women for about a decade. The women were freed from his house on May 6. Castro has agreed to accept a life prison term and will be formally sentenced on Thursday.
(Editing by Greg McCune and Grant McCool)