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After 3 bodies found, mayor warns: 'There might be more victims'

By Emily Smith and Chris Welch, CNN
July 22, 2013 -- Updated 0053 GMT (0853 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: "I always watched him. I never turned my back," says neighbor who knows suspect
  • All three victims were found near each other, wrapped in multiple layers of plastic bags
  • The suspect "idolized" serial killer Anthony Sowell, according to the East Cleveland mayor
  • Police and volunteers continue to search the area Sunday

(CNN) -- Three bodies have been discovered in East Cleveland, Ohio, police say, and a man is in custody in connection with the case.

"We are dealing with a sick individual, and we have reason to believe that there might be more victims," East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton told CNN.

All three victims appear to be young black women, their decomposing bodies wrapped in layers of plastic and taped up, according to authorities.

Two bodies were found Saturday, one in the basement of an abandoned house, the other in a field nearby. The first victim was found Friday in a garage on the same block after police received a call about a foul odor.

East Cleveland mayor stunned by murders
Women found wrapped in plastic
3 bodies found wrapped in plastic

The first victim was found naked with indications of trauma, police say. The second victim was found wearing a green hoodie, and the third was wearing a leopard print leotard.

The garage where the first victim was found was leased to Michael Madison, according to Detective Sgt. Scott Gardner with the East Cleveland police.

Authorities obtained a search warrant for Madison's apartment and found "additional evidence of decomposition" there, he said.

The 35-year-old suspect was later located and taken into custody without incident after a standoff at his mother's house.

According to police, Madison was convicted of attempted rape in 2001 and is a registered sex offender.

CNN could not immediately reach a representative for Madison.

Norton believes the killings happened over a 10-day period.

"One of the things that makes us believe it's the same suspect is the way that they were all wrapped ... and the same concealment of each of the victims," he said.

According to Norton, Madison "idolized" and was "influenced" by convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell.

Sowell was sentenced to death in 2011 for killing 11 women in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

"Unfortunately, this is a sick individual who appears to have been influenced by another sick individual," Norton told CNN. "If he had been out for one more hour, there's no telling what would have happened."

One hundred volunteers were going house to house Sunday "to see if there's anything else out there that police need to know about," he added. Cadaver dogs were assisting in the search.

East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts told CNN affiliate WEWS that authorities have received tips from the public and hope to get more.

"A lot of people knew him and saw that he was a troubled individual and now, you know, we're getting tips from even females saying that they were in his house and they got away, but never said anything," he said.

Shaeaun Child, a neighbor who tipped police off about the foul smell in the garage, told CNN he knows Madison. The two argued once over the blocking of a driveway.

"From what I know, he was an OK person when I first met him. And then from there, he actually, he had a lot of conflicts with different girls that he knew," Child said. "When he real upset with someone, he get real loud. You could hear him like two blocks away."

He continued: "After my conflict with him, I always watched him. I never turned my back because you never know."

So far, police have been unable to identify any of the victims. The Cuyahoga County medical examiner said in a Sunday statement that "identification and final cause of death may take several days" given the advanced state of decomposition. Currently the medical examiner's office is not asking people with missing relatives to provide DNA samples.

"We hope and pray that there are no more (bodies)," the mayor said.

No charges have yet been filed.

East Cleveland is seven miles northeast of Cleveland, Ohio. The city, incorporated in 1911, occupies three square miles.

According to 2010 census data, the city of almost 18,000 is predominately African-American and has the highest poverty rate in Cuyahoga County.

CNN's Anna Coren, Morgan Winsor and Alina Cho contributed to this report

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