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Prosecutors also showed an eight-hour taped interrogation of Sowell after he was arrested.

During the interrogation, Sowell let out a cry of anguish and buried his head in his hands as two detectives pressed him to explain how the bodies ended up in his house in a drug-ridden neighborhood on the east side of town.

“It had to be me,” Sowell said in the video, rubbing his head with his hands. “I can’t describe nobody. I cannot do it. I don’t know. But I’m trying to.”

In the sentencing phase, Sowell made his first detailed public comments since his arrest nearly two years ago. The prosecution wasn’t allowed to cross-examine him, leaving unspoken the question of why he attacked the 14 women.

“The only thing I want to say is I’m sorry,” Sowell told the jury. “I know that might not sound like much, but I truly am sorry from the bottom of my heart.”

He also said he didn’t know what happened and couldn’t explain it.

“I know it’s not a lot, but that’s all I can give you,” he said.

A mental health expert hired by the defense told jurors that Sowell suffers from a number of mental illnesses, including obsessive compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder that results from abuse he sustained during childhood. Dr. George Woods testified that Sowell grew up in a family that had a history of physical abuse that went back for generations and diagnosed him with unspecified psychoses and an unspecified cognitive disorder.

Defense attorneys also suggested an untreated 2007 heart attack or head injury might have caused Sowell’s mental health problems.

A social worker, Lori James-Townes, testified for the defense that Sowell had an “extremely horrible” childhood marked by abuse and an absent father and saw nieces whipped almost daily, adding up to a home environment that “had a horrific cumulative effect” on him. She narrated a family tree going back generations that included sexual abuse, absent fathers, health problems, drug abuse and mental illness.

Some of the witnesses, however, seemed to hurt Sowell’s bid for mercy.

Sowell’s half-sister appealed to the jury to save his life but admitted during cross-examination that he sometimes got angry and once assaulted a girl who had acted aggressively toward her during an argument. She also testified that he got angry if he drank alcohol and smoked marijuana at the same time.

A niece who testified about their troubled home life said Sowell repeatedly raped her when she was 10 years old and he was 11.

The jury also heard during the sentencing phase that Sowell had a prior sexual-assault conviction in 1989 for attempted rape, for which he was incarcerated until 2005. Any mention of it was withheld during the trial to avoid prejudicing jurors.

Associated Press writer John Seewer contributed to this report.