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Nonprofits complete fundraising for $300,000 memorial garden dedicated to victims of serial killer Anthony Sowell

Cleveland, Ohio - The Western Reserve Land Conservancy said Wednesday that it and other organizations completed fundraising for a $300,000 memorial garden on the former property of convicted killer Anthony Sowell in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood where police found the decomposed bodies of 11 women in 2009.

The memorial project recently received $146,958 from Ohio’s Clean Ohio Fund, completing the fundraising needed to turn the site of the murders into a community garden and memorial, the land conservancy said. Construction will begin in May or June and aim for completion in the fall, the conservancy said.

Other organizations that assisted in the fundraising included the nonprofit LAND Studio and Burten Bell Carr Development Inc.

A jury found Sowell guilty in 2011 of dozens of charges related to the killings, including multiple counts of aggravated murder and other crimes related to the women he killed. Sowell, 61, who had been on death row in the Chillicothe Correctional Institution, died Feb. 9 of an unspecified illness at the end-of-life care unit at the Franklin Medical Center in Columbus.

Sowell’s house was demolished in 2011.

In 2016, at the request of organizations including the Mount Pleasant Ministerial Alliance, Western Reserve Land Conservancy helped establish the memorial site by acquiring two vacant parcels adjacent to the Sowell lot, working in partnership with the families of the victims and the local community.

The site eventually grew to include eight vacant residential lots.

“For more than a decade, the tragedy of these 11 women who were forgotten by society and brutally murdered in a decrepit house on Imperial Avenue has been a scar on this community,” Isaac Robb, vice president of planning and urban projects at Western Reserve Land Conservancy, said in the news release. “We hope that the Garden of 11 Angels will be part of the healing this community needs and deserves.”

The Western Reserve Land Conservancy announced Wednesday that it and other organizations had completed raising $300,000 to create a landscape memorial to 11 slain women whose bodies were found on the former property of convicted killer Anthony Sowell. Construction of the memorial will begin this spring and aim for completion in the fall. Courtesy Western Reserve Land Conservancy

Good Nature Lawn Service, clergy, community residents and Western Reserve Land Conservancy staff planted grass and trees on the property as a placeholder for a future memorial.

In 2019, landscape architect David Wilson of LAND Studio reconfigured the original design to complement the eight total parcels that now serve as the backdrop of the memorial.

The design includes a low wall in the shape of an infinity loop, flower beds, numerous trees, a birdhouse, and a bicycle rack. A monument designed by Kevin Robinette out of South Euclid will be featured within the infinity loop furthest from the street.

The design for the monument to be erected on the site of the “11 Angels” project dedicated to victims of serial killer Anthony Sowell.Courtesy Western Reserve Land Conservancy

The estate of Maya Angelou gave permission for the use of a quotation from her poem, “Still I Rise,’’ in the garden, the conservancy said.

“This memorial will turn tragedy into triumph and serve as an important anchor for the entire community,” Joy Johnson, executive director at Burten, Bell, and Carr Development, Inc. said in the news release. “Now that the final piece of funding is in place, what has been a dream for so many of us for so long is finally becoming a reality.”

The Rev. Jimmy Gates of Zion Hill Baptist Church said in the release that the garden will be a tribute to the 11 victims. “It will be a testament to our community’s strength in the face of adversity,” he said. “The Garden represents much more than trees and flowers. It represents hope for a better, brighter future.”

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