UPDATED: Friday, June 3, 2016
The father of an 18-year-old Cleveland teenager who was killed by Michael Madison lunged at the convicted serial killer shortly after a judge sentenced him to death Thursday.
Van Terry, addressing the judge and the courtroom, stood up just moments after the sentence was handed down. Madison was convicted of killing Terry’s daughter, Shirellda Terry, in July 2013. He was also convicted of killing two other women: 28-year-old Shetisha Sheeley and 38-year-old Angela Deskins, and stuffing their bodies into trash bags near his apartment, the New York Daily News reports:
“How are you doing, your honor, my name is Van Terry, father of Shirellda Terry,” he said at a podium in the Cleveland courtroom in a video of the hearing published by the newspaper. “Right now, I guess we’re supposed to, in our hearts, forgive this clown.”
Terry started, “He touched our families, taking my town …” and trailed off before leaning on his elbow and staring at Madison for a few seconds. Family members told WJW-TV Madison was smiling and taunting his three victims’ loved ones during the hearing.
Terry pushed the podium away and threw himself at Madison, getting bear-hugged by a courtroom bailiff in the process. Several bailiffs subdued Terry as audience members cried out “No! No! No!” and “Oh my God!”
Officers separated the two, escorting Terry from the courtroom.
A spokesman for the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court said officials were aware of the incident, but could not comment pending an investigation, the News reports.
Shirellda Terry, the 18-year-old who went missing July 10, 2013 after leaving her summer job, was identified Tuesday by authorities as the third victim of alleged serial killer Michael Madison.
Madison, 35, 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 the 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 Terry 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.
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.