July 4, 2020

Cleveland kidnap accused Ariel Castro in court


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The man accused of imprisoning three women for about a decade in the US city of Cleveland has made his first court appearance.

Ariel Castro, 52, is charged with kidnap and rape. He did not enter a plea.

Bail was set at $8m (£5.1m), meaning in effect that he will remain in custody.

The women were abducted at different times and held in Mr Castro’s house. One of those held, Amanda Berry, 27, escaped on Monday and raised the alarm.

The other women freed soon afterwards were Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32.

‘Premeditated, depraved’

Mr Castro, handcuffed and dressed in blue overalls, remained silent and looked down while lawyers spoke to the judge at Cleveland Municipal Court on Thursday.


County prosecutor Brian Murphy told the court: “The charges against Mr Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate, depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland West Side streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”


He is charged with four counts of kidnapping, covering the three initial abduction victims and Jocelyn, Ms Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was apparently conceived and born in captivity.


The former school bus driver also faces three counts of rape, one against each woman. More charges may be added, officials have said.


Two of Mr Castro’s brothers, Pedro and Onil, were also arrested, but police found no evidence they were involved in the crime.


They appeared in court alongside Ariel Castro on unrelated minor charges. Pedro Castro was fined $100 for public drinking, while two charges against Onil Castro were dropped.


Ariel Castro has been put on suicide watch and will be kept in isolation, his court-appointed lawyer Kathleen DeMetz told reporters.


‘Wigs and hats’

The three women were all abducted after accepting rides from Mr Castro, according to a police report leaked to the media.


On Thursday, Mr Castro’s daughter, Arlene, who was one of the last people to see Gina DeJesus before she disappeared in 2004 aged 14, wept during a TV interview.


Describing herself as “disappointed, embarrassed, mainly devastated”, she apologised to Ms DeJesus.


The women told officials they could only remember being outside twice during their time in captivity.


Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins said the women had told police they had only gone as far as a garage on the property, disguised in wigs and hats.


Mr Cummins, citing police information, said the victims had been kept apart inside the house until their captor felt he had enough control to allow them to mingle.


‘Multiple miscarriages’

A source told the BBC that one of the women was forced to help Ms Berry deliver her daughter, and was threatened with death if the child did not survive.


Her baby was born in a plastic inflatable children’s swimming pool on Christmas Day 2006, according to a police report.


Ms Berry was not the only woman who became pregnant during captivity, Mr Cummins said. One of the three women had suffered at least five miscarriages.


Mr Castro is accused of having intentionally caused the miscarriages by starving her for weeks and beating her in the abdomen, according to the city councilman.


Police said more than 200 pieces of evidence had been taken from the home where the three women were held captive.


They said interviews with the women had yielded enough information to charge Mr Castro.


Police said he had been co-operating with them, waiving his right to silence and agreeing to a test to establish Jocelyn’s paternity.


On Wednesday hundreds of cheering people welcomed home Ms DeJesus and Ms Berry and her daughter.

Ms Berry, whose disappearance in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday was widely publicised in the local media, escaped on Monday evening by kicking the door and screaming for help, while her alleged captor was out.

Ms Knight, who was 20 when she disappeared in 2002, remains in hospital.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports she had complained of chest pains during her rescue, but she is listed as in good condition.

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