MISSING GIRLS IN CLEVELAND

Death penalty weighed as abuse details surface

1 captive forced to miscarry 5 times, police say

5/10/2013
BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ariel Castro appears in Cleveland Municipal Court with defense attorney Kathleen DeMetz. Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape against three women missing for about a decade.
Ariel Castro appears in Cleveland Municipal Court with defense attorney Kathleen DeMetz. Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape against three women missing for about a decade.

CLEVELAND — Prosecutors said Thursday they may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the man accused of imprisoning three women at his Cleveland home for a decade, as police charged that he impregnated one of his captives at least five times and made her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly.

The allegations were contained in a police report that also said another one of the women, Amanda Berry, was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges punishable by death in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.

“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” he said. “The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life.”

Castro, 52, a former school bus driver who is charged with rape and kidnapping, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch.

Mr. McGinty said Castro will be charged for every act of sexual violence, assault, and other crimes against the women, suggesting the counts could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Castro did not speak during his arraignment Thursday morning in Cleveland Municipal Court even as Brian Murphy, an assistant prosecutor, said Castro, for more than a decade, allegedly used his victims “in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”

Castro is charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape for the abduction and assault of Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, who were found Monday in Castro’s run-down home on Seymour Avenue.

A 6-year-old girl, believed to be Ms. Berry’s daughter, also was found inside the home.

Kathleen DeMetz, a public defender who represented Castro in the court proceedings, said he would be transferred to the Cuyahoga County jail from a city jail’s medical unit, where defendants charged with sex crimes or considered a suicide risk are normally held. She said he probably would remain under suicide watch while at the county jail.

Guardian Angels hang a poster at the home of Gina DeJesus, one of three women freed on Monday.
Guardian Angels hang a poster at the home of Gina DeJesus, one of three women freed on Monday.

Castro did not have a chance to talk to his two brothers, who were arrested and cleared without charges, Ms. DeMetz said.

Brothers Pedro and Onil were originally thought to be suspects, but officials determined they had no knowledge of or involvement in the crimes.

The brothers also appeared for arraignment in court for unrelated misdemeanor charges.

Pedro Castro and Onil Castro were arraigned on one count each of open container; Onil Castro also is charged with drug abuse.

Pedro Castro, 54, pleaded no contest to the charge; the charges against Onil Castro, 50, were dismissed.

Among the details in the police report obtained Thursday:

■ Ms. Berry, 27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Ms. Berry said she, her baby, now 6, and the two other rescued women never visited a doctor during their captivity.

■ Michelle Knight, 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks and “repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried.” She also said Castro forced her to deliver Ms. Berry’s baby under threat of death if the infant died. Ms. Knight said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived the child through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

■ All three women said Castro chained them in the basement but eventually let them live upstairs on the second floor.

Each woman told a similar story about being abducted after accepting a ride from Castro.

During his brief arraignment, Castro tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his collar. He appeared to close his eyes during the hearing and awkwardly signed documents while handcuffed.

Castro has been under arrest since Monday, when Ms. Berry broke out of his house and called 911 while he was away.

Police found the two other women inside. The women had vanished separately between 2002 and 2004 when they 14, 16, and 20.

Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus, 22, went home with relatives on Wednesday.

Ms. Knight was reported in good condition at a Cleveland hospital.

The police report gave a detailed account of their escape, beginning with Ms. Berry’s discovery that a door was unlocked, leaving only a bolted outer door between her and freedom.

Ms. Berry feared it was a test: She said Castro occasionally left a door unlocked to test them.

But she called to neighbors on a porch for help and was able to get out.

Police then entered the house and found the other women, who threw themselves into the officers’ arms.

During their captivity, the women left the residence only twice, and then just to the garage.

Police said the women wore disguises and went from the home to a garage on the property. The women were aware of one another in the home, but were kept separately, officials said.

The Blade’s news services contributed to this report.