Although African Americans make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, we account for 33 percent of the missing in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s database. Cases involving African Americans also tend to receive less media coverage than missing Whites, with missing men of color getting even less attention.
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Shirellda Terry (pictured above), the 18-year-old who went missing July 10 after leaving her summer job, was identified Tuesday by authorities as the third victim of alleged serial killer Michael Madison.
Madison, 35, (pictured below left) was arrested after a standoff with police and a search of nearby vacant houses led to the discovery of three bodies in the fetal position wrapped in trash bags.
Madison was charged with aggravated murder after three bodies were discovered in the suburb of East Cleveland. Police say that Madison may have been inspired by notorious convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell.
Sowell was sentenced to death in 2011 after the bodies of 11 women were found in his home in 2009. Like Madison’s alleged victims, the women were African American.
Madison’s other alleged victims were Shetisha Sheeley, 28, and Angela Deskins, 38. He is being held on $6 million bail after being charged with three counts each of aggravated murder and kidnapping.
According to a report from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., African-American women are three times more likely to be homicide victims than their white counterparts. Examining data from 2009, the center found that the homicide rate for African American women was 4.89 per 100,000 compared to 1.61 for white women.
Madison is a registered sex offender with a criminal history, according to media reports. The Plain-Dealer writes:
He was arrested in 2001 on charges of attempted rape, gross sexual imposition and kidnapping. He pleaded guilty as part of a plea bargain to attempted rape in 2002, and was sentenced to four years in prison. He also was found to be a sexually oriented offender. Two months ago, he pleaded guilty to possession of marijuana, and was fined. He also was found guilty of attempted possession of drugs in 2001, and disorderly conduct in 2001 and 2006.
There were also signs of trouble according to people who knew Madison. Some neighbors said Madison was aggressive toward young women. One woman told Fox 8 that Madison tried to befriend her daughter but she warned him away from her.
“It could have been my baby. He walked my daughter down the street two weeks ago, my cousin and my daughter; it could have been one of them, but I believe because I was so aggressive, he knew, ‘don’t mess with those girls,’” Nathenia Crosby told FOX 8.
Another sign was Madison’s alleged admiration of Sowell.
Eric Wilson of East Cleveland told Fox that Madison would reference Sowell. “‘I’m gonna Anthony Sowell somebody,’” Wilson said Madison would say.
“Anyone who admires Anthony Sowell is a danger. They are insane. He is nothing to admire or glorify in any way, and if you would say it out loud to someone else that you admire Anthony Sowell, there’s signs of your psychosis right there. It’s very sad. I mean anybody who would idolize or admire someone who doesn’t respect human life, and will just dispose of you like you’re garbage, that’s not anyone that I would want to be my neighbor,” said a neighbor of Madison’s mother.
Family and friends described Shirellda as the type of young woman who loved studying the Bible, never missing Bible study classes or church. Her minister parents tried to hold out hope.
“I do trust God, but I am a woman first and I am emotional because that’s my daughter,” Belinda Minor said.
East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton described the killings as another terrible blow to his impoverished suburb.
“Three individuals who were minding their own business were killed senselessly by an individual with no regard for human life,” Norton said. “As a community we are dealing with the tragedy, we are healing and we are strong.”
Now police are worried that they may not have uncovered all of Madison’s victims.
“We feel there may be more to this. This is an ongoing investigation. We’re no where near done,” said East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts.