Accused serial killer Anthony Sowell watches the jury walk into the courtroom at the Justice Center in Cleveland
Accused serial killer Anthony Sowell watches the jury walk into the courtroom at the Justice Center in Cleveland July 19, 2011. In a surprising move, defense attorneys for Sowell rested their case without calling a single witness. Sowell has been indicted on 83 charges including murder, rape, assault and kidnapping, and faces the death penalty if found guilty of the aggravated murder of the 11 women whose bodies were found in and around his home in Cleveland. Reuters

Anthony Sowell, an Ohio sex offender, convicted of the murder of 11 women, was subjected to violent physical abuse as a child. Sowell's niece, Leona Davis, 50, who had spent her childhood with the Sowell's family following her mother's death, described the harrowing experiences she and Sowell had undergone as children, during a testimony in the court.

Sowell's mother, Claudia Garrison, and his grandmother stripped the children naked, tied them to poles or banisters and whipped them, sometimes with electrical cords. The torture would happen almost every day which made Davis run away from her aunt's home, multiple times, says a Reuters report on the testimony.

Davis testified that she was subjected to rape when she was just 10, by a 12-year-old Sowell and by every male member of the family, almost daily.

Once, when Davis returned after an attempt to escape the traumatic life at her aunt's house, she was hit by Sowell's mother Garrison, on her head with a high-heel shoe and was beaten up until she bled.

Davis explained how desperately she wanted to get admitted to a juvenile home for escaping the violence, "there I was locked up and nobody would hurt me."

Sowell's nephew, Jesse "Darnell" Hatcher, 48, also testified about the childhood abuse and said that he doesn't wear shorts due to scarring. Hatcher said he has "no idea" why he was beaten and said he never dared to ask.

However, Sowell's relatives testified they never saw anyone sexually abusing Sowell as a child.

About the Case:

Sowell was found guilty of aggravated murder, kidnapping, tampering with evidence and abuse of a human corpse. The serial killing case is now in the sentencing phase, where the jurors will decide on death penalty or life imprisonment.

He was arrested in October 2009 as a suspect in the murders of 11 women after their bodies were discovered at his Cleveland, Ohio, duplex in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. Sowell was charged with 83 counts of murder, rape and kidnapping. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but later changed his plea to simply "not guilty".

Sowell lured his victims with promises of alcohol and drugs, who were later brutally raped, killed and buried. Most of his victims had criminal records and in many cases they were not reported missing directly to the police for several months.