Serial killer's niece paints picture of childhood abuse - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Serial killer's niece paints picture of horrific childhood abuse

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CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) -

The second day in the death penalty phase of the Anthony Sowell murder trial has begun.

Leona Davis, a niece of Sowell's who lived in the same house as a child, was first to take the stand on Tuesday. 

Leona moved in with Sowell's family after her mother died. She spoke of repeated beatings and abuse at the home.

Leona said all the children were tied to a banister and hit with a switch by Anthony's mother, Gertrude, when they did something wrong. She said the situation was so bad she set a fire to the house so police would come and get her. Leona said when she was beaten she was forced to first strip naked. Sowell and his brother would watch.

She wanted to kill Gertrude, but couldn't. At the age of 9, Leona got a gun and aimed it out a window at Gertrude, but couldn't go through with it. She eventually ran away.

Leona says she was sexually abused by Sowell during the time they lived in the same home. She was 10 and Sowell was 11 when this began. She said other male family members also sexually abused her "about everyday."

Leona said the day she set the fires was the happiest of her life. She was finally "out" and found security in "the institution."

When defense attorneys tried to ask her if Sowell should live or die, prosecutors objected. Judge Ambrose sustained. She said she forgives Sowell.

Leona said she never told anyone about her abuse until she learned of Sowell's arrest for the Imperial Avenue murders.

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