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Ariel Castro charged with kidnapping, rape of 3 Cleveland women

11:41 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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Ariel Castro is among three brothers in police custody in Cleveland.(Photo: AP)

(USA TODAY) -- Ariel Castro, the 52-year-old former school bus driver who owned the Cleveland home where three women were held captive for almost a decade, was arraigned Thursday on charges of four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

Handcuffed and wearing a dark blue jail jumpsuit, Castro stared at the floor throughout most of the five-minute hearing, even while exchanging words and a few nods with his attorney, public defender Kathleen DeMetz.

It was Castro's first court appearance since Amanda Berry's screams on Monday alerted neighbors, then the police, then the world to the nightmare she and two other victims -- Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- have endured at the hands of a sadistic captor in his west side house.

In a brief explanation of the charges, prosecutor Brian Murphy alleged that they were based on Castro's "premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland's west side streets to use for whatever self-gratifying, self-serving ways that he saw fit."

He said the women were forced to endure a "horrifying ordeal for more than a decade" in which they were had been "bound, restrained and sexually assaulted."

"They were never free to leave this residence," he said, referring to Castro's home on Seymour Avenue.

Murphy noted that the girls disappeared suddenly almost 10 years ago, but re-emerged "thankfully and miraculously" three days ago.

As Castro continued to look down at his feet, Murphy noted that while the suspect was now being held by authorities "the women are free to resume their lives that was interrupted and also with the promise and the hope that justice will be served."

Cleveland Municipal Court judge Lauren Moore then set bail at $8 million. She said that if Castro, who is unemployed, should post the the bond, he is ordered to have "absolutely no contact with the victims or the victims' families."

"I knew that the bond would be extremely high," said DeMetz, Castro's attorney.

Castro did not enter a plea, which DeMetz said would be done when the case is transferred from the municipal court to the county court. She said it was "quite possible" that the county prosecutor will charge Castro with additional crimes.

Castro, who has been under suicide watch during his confinement in the medical ward of the municipal jail, will be transferred to the county jail.

CBS News, quoting an unidentified law enforcement source, reported Thursday that FBI agents found a note in Castro's house, apparently written in 2004, in which he apparently contemplated suicide and asked that all of his money be provided to each of his victims.

In the note, CBS's investigative producer Pat Milton reported, Castro wrote that he was abused as a child and was raped by an uncle.

DeMetz, the public defender, said she met with Castro for 30 minutes Thursday morning to review his rights and court procedures. She declined to say whether he talked about the case or describe his demeanor.

She said he had not spoken to his brothers Thursday and that the men had been held separately.

Knight, now 32, remains in a Cleveland hospital. But Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, returned to their Cleveland homes earlier Wednesday for their first time in almost 10 years, where they were surrounded by family and friends.

The kidnapping charges include Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was conceived and born in the house on the city's west side. DNA tests are being conducted to determine the child's father.

Castro two brothers, Pedro and Onil, who were arrested along with him on Monday, also appeared with him in court. But prosecutors say there is no evidence linking them to the abduction and rape case or suggesting they had any knowledge of it.

They were in court on unrelated misdemeanor charges, which were quickly dispatched. The judge then ordered the two brothers released.

Even as prosecutors finalized formal charges, some grim details have emerged from an initial police report on what went on inside the house at 2207 Seymour Avenue on Cleveland's west side.

The victims have told investigators similar stories of being abducted by Castro after he offered them a ride home from school or work.

The report, obtained by Cleveland TV station WKYC, sketches the outlines of the victims' descent into hell. It is rife with details of beatings, chained confinement, starvation and death threats.

It alleges that Castro impregnated Knight five times, forced her to starve for weeks at a time and punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Castro, the report said, also forced Knight to deliver Berry's baby in a plastic kiddie pool and threatened to murder Knight if the newborn died.

"Michelle stated that Ariel told her that if the baby died, that he'd kill her," the police report states, according to WKYC's Tom Meyer.

The report then tells of the next few harrowing minutes as Knight fought for her own life and for the life of Berry's child, Jocelyn, who had stopped breathing during the birth.

Knight, the report said, put her mouth to the Jocelyn's mouth and "breathed for her" to keep them both alive.

The report, according to WKYC, says Berry managed to escape on Monday because Castro forgot to lock the "big inside door" when he left briefly to go to a local fast-food restaurant. She then alerted neighbors and called 911.

In newly released police audio tapes, a 911 dispatcher notifies officers on Monday that she's just spoken to a woman who "says her name is Amanda Berry and that she had been kidnapped 10 years ago."

An officer on the recorded call says, "This might be for real."

Once police arrived, the officers checked the basement and then walked to the second floor.

"As we neared the top of the steps, Officer Espada hollered out, 'Cleveland Police,' at which time ... Knight ran and threw herself into (Officer) Espada's arms," the officer writing the report noted. "We then asked if there was anyone else upstairs with her, when (DeJesus) came out of the bedroom. "

Espada then put Knight down and DeJesus jumped into the officer's arms.

As the victims settled into their sudden freedom on Wednesday, Nancy DeJesus, Gina's mother, thanked those who had helped the family over the past nine years.

"Even the ones that doubted, I want to thank them the most," she said. "They're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there."

Gina's aunt, Sandra Ruiz, called on friends, relatives and the media "to give us time and privacy to heal."

USA Today

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