Can You Imagine?

Try to imagine living in a neighborhood of small homes. Your neighbors pay attention to each other and have become friendly. Some even offer barbeque on the weekends in their front yards.

But there are odd things about this neighborhood that you learn after you’ve moved in. For one thing, your next door neighbor is a sausage making plant, zoned in the middle of single family homes and a duplex. Many people are unemployed. Some homes are abandoned except for the scavengers who steal the copper pipe out of the buildings. A few drug dealers operate on the edges of the neighborhood.

You’ve even seen the guy next door laying naked on top of a woman in the bushes at the side of his house, during the day. Your neighbor, standing beside you, asked him what he was doing. The man apologized and disappeared indoors with the woman. This same man has a lot of women over to his home. They come and go regularly.

Then, there’s the strange odor.

You and your neighbors assume it’s the sausage making plant on the corner. You call the city, who checks things out. The plant cleans every piece of their equipment and even cleans out the sewer leading from their plant to the street. Still, the odor persists.

It smells like a dead dog, like sewage, or rotting flesh. Yet, the smell goes on for years as you live there. Once again, the city investigates the sausage plant and forces them to do another cleaning of all their equipment. Still, the smell persists.

One day, the police receive a tip about Anthony Sowell’s house–the guy who was naked in the bushes with the woman. They investigate the registered sex offender’s home and start to find dead bodies–eleven of them in total–in various states of decay.

Can you imagine? Living in this neighborhood?

How could this happen without anyone knowing? If your neighborhood is like mine, the people are friendly and even get together a few times a year for a block party where we close off the street and drink beer outside. We ask how things are going but there’s always a line beyond which most people won’t cross–we don’t want to be too snoopy. Most of all, we don’t want to cause any friction on the block by calling the police on someone else.

In my experience, a couple two doors away (years ago) had obvious marital problems. Many of us on the block suspected the husband of abusing his wife, perhaps even physically. In private conversations with her on the front lawn, we made vague offers of help. But none of us went any further. The verbal fights and smashing sounds traveled down the street on hot summer nights. They moved and I hope the wife is all right.

The point is, none of us ever called the police. What would we say to the cops? What hard evidence did we have? Shouting and yelling? Many couples do that without crossing the line into abuse.

Even with the putrid smell, maybe that’s what happened on the unusual street in Cleveland, Ohio. What do you think? How could the alleged murderer get away with eleven dead, rotting bodies on his property? Let me know what you think.

Next post, I’ll talk about what it’s like to defend serial rapists in trials…

About Colin Nelson

Colin T. Nelson worked for 40 years as a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer in Minneapolis. He tried everything from speeding tickets to first degree murder. His writing about the courtroom and the legal system give the reader a "back door" view of what goes on, what's funny, and what's a good story. He has also traveled extensively and includes those locations in his mysteries. Some are set in Southeast Asia, Ecuador,Peru, and South Africa. Readers get a suspenseful tale while learning about new places on the planet. Colin is married, has two adult children, and plays the saxophone in various bands.

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