Officers were called to an East Cleveland, Ohio block after residents in the area began to complain of a particularly foul odor. When police traced the odor to inside of a garage, they entered to uncover a grizzly scene. Wrapped inside a layer of trash bags was the decomposed body of a woman posed in the fetal position.
The following day investigators continued to search the vacant home, one of many within the impoverish Cleveland East Side suburb. Inside of the basement a second body was found in a similar state as the first. An excavation of the property would unveil a third body – this time buried in the backyard. At least one of the women was found without clothing and all three appeared to have been murdered within 10 days prior to their discovery.
The property was traced back to East Cleveland resident and convicted rapist Michael Madison. Madison was promptly located at his mother’s home, just blocks away from the street where the bodies had been recovered. Police feared that there may be more bodies, after receiving a tip that Madison may have been inspired to follow in the footsteps of Cleveland native and serial killer Anthony Sowell, who in 2011 was found guilty of murdering 11 women and burying them in his own backyard.
The search expanded to include other areas around the city. With the help of nearly three dozen volunteers and cadaver dogs, police were able to comb parks, vacant properties and areas along the railroad tracks, in efforts to recover more bodies around the city.
By July 21, 2013, after coming up with no new leads, officials called off the search. Madison was charged with first-degree murder and kidnapping for the three women, later identified as Shetisha Sheeley, Angela Deskins and Shirellda Helen Terry.
Sheeley was the first woman to be reported missing by her family in September 2012. Sheely was known to be in the East Cleveland-area often, but her family says that they had never heard of anyone named Michael Madison until Madison’s arrest was tied to Shetisha’s disappearance. When she failed to attend her brother’s funeral after he was gunned down during a home invasion in December of 2012, the Sheely family’s suspicions that Shetisha had suffered a terrible fate continued to grow. Ten months later those suspicions would be confirmed.
Police were able to determine that Shetisha had been murdered within days prior to her body’s discovery, but believe that she may have been kidnapped by Madison prior to her death.
Angela Danskin, had a prior missing persons report filed on her in 2009, but had been located at a later date. Her body was recovered less than two months after the second report was filed by her family in June of 2013 and she would become the first of Madison’s victims to be identified by police.
Madison’s youngest victim, 18-year-old Shirellda Terry, was last reported to have been seen on July 10, 2013 leaving her job at an East Cleveland elementary school. The Terry family and other community organizers diligently passed out fliers around the city of East Cleveland in the weeks leading up to her body’s discovery.
Madison was ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation before his trial proceedings for the kidnap and murder of the three women could begin. Nearly three years after investigators uncovered the bodies, Madison has been deemed fit to stand trial.
In April of 2016 prosecutors began to describe to a panel of judges the horrifying details of the battered and decomposed bodies uncovered by police in the vacant home. Madison’s defense attorney does not contest that Madison had been involved in the murders, but has suggested that Madison’s drug addiction and his history of anger issues are what drove the man to brutally murder the three young women.
On May 3, 2016, Madison was quoted by The Plain Dealer as saying, “I don’t want this to go down and be for nothing,” elaborating, “I don’t want this to just be, you know, a spectacle.” He also says that he is hoping that people will see his story and reach out for psychological help if they notice they are struggling. Madison is currently facing the death penalty if convicted.