East Cleveland, Ohio: East Cleveland Police Chief Ralph Spotts has publicly identified the suspect in the deaths of three women found wrapped in trash bags, and officers and volunteers have ended hours of searching without finding more bodies.
Mr Spotts said on Sunday that 35-year-old registered sex offender Michael Madison is in custody and expected to be formally charged on Monday.
Sunday's search included scouring about 40 abandoned houses and other areas, but turned up no more bodies in the neighbourhood where three were found separately on Friday and Saturday.
Earlier, Mr Spotts told the volunteers to brace themselves for the smell of rotting bodies and to look out for trash bags that might conceal a body. He declined to elaborate on his comments about the possible additional victims.
When asked about Mr Spotts' remark, East Cleveland Mayor Gary Norton said authorities have "lots of reasons" to suspect there are more victims, but he refused to say why.
East Cleveland police officers search a neighbourhood, near where three bodies were recently found, in East Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: AP
Mr Madison was arrested on Friday after a police standoff. He had indicated that he might have been influenced by Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell, who was convicted in 2011 of killing 11 women and sentenced to death, Mr Norton said.
"He said some things that led us to believe that in some way, shape, or form, Sowell might be an influence," Mr Norton said.
A report of a foul odour emanating from a home led police to the discovery of the first body, found in a garage, and to the suspect. Two other bodies were found on Saturday — one in a backyard and the other in the basement of a vacant house. The bodies, all female, were found about 100 to 200 yards apart, and authorities say the victims were killed in the last six to 10 days.
City of East Cleveland service department employee Ray Allen breaks into an abandoned house so searchers can enter in East Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: AP
The bodies were each in the foetal position, wrapped in several layers of trash bags, Mr Norton said. He said detectives continue to interview the suspect, who used his mother's address in Cleveland in registering as a sex offender, the mayor said.
"The person in custody, some of the things he said to investigators made us go back today," the mayor said.
Cuyahoga County medical examiner Dr. Thomas P. Gilson said on Sunday that the bodies were in advanced stages of decomposition and that it would take several days to identify them and how they died.
Calvin Brooks, a member of Black on Black Crime, a community group which holds rallies and is heavily involved in neighborhoods, searches a home in East Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: AP
The police chief told volunteers, including community anti-crime activists, to watch for missing floor boards as they looked inside houses.
"The MO [modus operandi] of each body we've found so far was wrapped up in a lot of garbage bags, so if you see anything .... and it might not look like it's a body, but it could be — because each bag, the way he had each person was in a foetal position," Mr Spotts told searchers. "It didn't look like a person could actually fit in the bag."
One neighbour, Nathenia Crosby, said she was familiar with the suspect and had seen him walking through the neighbourhood. She said she had told him to stop chatting with her daughter and warned him after seeing him talk to her cousin.
A notice is posted on a door, where a 35-year-old registered sex offender was arrested Friday in East Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: AP
"It's very scary, especially when he used to be talking to my daughter," said Ms Crosby, 48. "But I told him he was too old to be talking to my daughter because she was only 19. When I found out how old he was, I said, 'You need to move on, she's too young.' "
The police, FBI, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department went through yards and abandoned houses over about three blocks on Saturday and used dogs trained to find cadavers. They planned to expand the search on Sunday.
The neighbourhood in East Cleveland, which has some 17,000 residents, has many abandoned houses and authorities want to be thorough, the mayor said.
"Hopefully, we pray to God, this is it," he said.
It's the third recent high-profile case in the Cleveland area that involves missing women.
In May, three women who separately vanished a decade ago were found captive in a run-down house. Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, has pleaded not guilty to nearly 1,000 counts of kidnap, rape and other crimes.
Mr Castro is accused of repeatedly restraining the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The charges say one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck. He also fathered a daughter with one captive, authorities said.
In 2009, Sowell was arrested after a woman escaped from his house and said she had been raped there. Police found the mostly nude bodies of 11 women throughout the home.
Sowell's victims were recovering or current drug addicts and most died of strangulation; some had been decapitated, and others were so badly decomposed that coroners couldn't say with certainty how they died. The bodies were disposed of in garbage bags and plastic sheets.
Prosecutors described him in court papers as "the worst offender in the history of Cuyahoga County and arguably the State of Ohio."
He was found guilty in 2011 and sentenced to death.