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Defense calls no witnesses in accused Ohio serial killer trial

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Defense attorneys for accused Ohio serial killer Anthony Sowell, on trial for the deaths of 11 women whose bodies were found in or around his home, rested their case on Tuesday without calling a single witness.

Sowell, 51, faces the death penalty if found guilty of the murders. Police discovered the first two bodies in 2009 after executing a search warrant for Sowell's arrest in response to an assault and rape charge.

Over the next week, more women's bodies were found in Sowell's Cleveland house and buried in shallow graves in the backyard. Pathologists from the coroner's office testified that one of the victims, Crystal Dozier, had been dead since 2007.

The defense move to rest came as a surprise. The team had received funds from the court for experts, including forensic consultants and psychologists, but none testified on Sowell's behalf.

The more than 50 prosecution witnesses included women who said they had fled Sowell's house after being attacked.

One prosecution witness was Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson's niece, Lori Frazier, an ex-girlfriend of Sowell, who said he suffered a series of suspicious injuries. Once she saw a deep gash across his head and blood on the floor and walls that he said were the result of a struggle with an intruder.

Before the trial began, Sowell's attorneys John Parker and Rufus Sims had asked for multiple continuances and filed motions to dismiss a pool of 300 jurors and motions for a change of venue.

Throughout the prosecution's case, Parker questioned the handling of the crime scene and whether there was sufficient DNA testing. Parker also tried to introduce to the jury police and psychiatric reports of Sowell's surviving victims, but that evidence was disallowed by the Judge Dick Ambrose.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning. If Sowell is found guilty of aggravated murder, the trial will enter a mitigation phase and jurors will decided if he will receive the death penalty. The defense requested more than $100,000 from the court for mitigation experts who are expected to testify if Sowell is found guilty.

Ambrose spent most of Tuesday's session going through jury instructions for the 83 charges against Sowell, including murder, rape, assault and kidnapping.

(Writing and reporting by Kim Sowell; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Cynthia Johnston)

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