Searchers rummaging through vacant houses in a neighbourhood where three bodies were found wrapped in plastic bags should be prepared to find one or two more victims, the police chief of a Cleveland suburb has said.
Police Chief Ralph Spotts told the volunteers to brace themselves for the smell of rotting bodies and to look out for rubbish bags that might conceal a body. He said there "may be one or two more victims" but declined to elaborate.
In response to a question about the chief's comments, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said authorities have "lots of reasons" to suspect there are more victims, but he refused to say why.
A 35-year-old registered sex offender in custody is a suspect in the deaths, Norton said. The suspect, who was arrested Friday after a police standoff, has indicated he might have been influenced by Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of killing 11 women and sentenced to death, Norton said.
"He said some things that led us to believe that in some way, shape, or form, Sowell might be an influence," Norton said. The man hasn't been charged.
The first body was found on Friday in a garage. Two others were found on Saturday - one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The bodies, believed to be female, were found about 100 to 200 yards apart, and authorities say the victims were killed in the last six to 10 days.
The bodies were each in the foetal position, wrapped in several layers of rubbish bags, Norton said. He said detectives continue to interview the suspect, who used his mother's address in Cleveland in registering as a sex offender, the mayor said.
"The person in custody, some of the things he said to investigators made us go back today," the mayor said.
One neighbour, Nathenia Crosby, said she was familiar with the suspect and had seen him walking through the neighbourhood. She said she had told him to stop talking to her daughter and warned him after seeing him talk to her cousin.
"It's very scary, especially when he used to be talking to my daughter," said Crosby, 48. "But I told him he was too old to be talking to my daughter because she was only 19. When I found out how old he was, I said, 'You need to move on, she's too young.'"