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Published: Wednesday, 5/8/2013

Cleveland man charged with kidnapping, rape in disappearance of 3 women

BLADE STAFF AND NEWS SERVICES
The front porch of Amanda Berry's home is decorated with balloons and signs in Cleveland.
The front porch of Amanda Berry's home is decorated with balloons and signs in Cleveland.
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CLEVELAND  — Ariel Castro, the man accused of holding captive three women for more than a decade has formally been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

Mr. Castro is to be arraigned Thursday, said chief assistant prosecutor Victor Perez.

Mr. Castro's brothers, Pedro and Onil, who were considered as additional suspects, are not being charged with any crimes as it relates to the kidnapping of Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus.

The two brothers do have outstanding warrants, officials said.

Officials said today during a news conference in downtown Cleveland that the only opportunity for the women to escape was Monday.

"She is the true hero. She started this," said Ed Tomba, Deputy Chief of Cleveland police, about Ms. Berry.

Monday was the first time police spoke to Mr. Castro about the investigation, officials said.

The Seymour Avenue home where the women and a 6-year-old girl, believed to be Ms. Berry's daughter, was in a state of "disarray."

The women were known to have left the house only twice during the 10 years they were held.

Police said they left the house in disguise and went into a garage on the property.

There was no indication the women ever left the property.

Officials would not comment on the young girl or if any other pregnancies occurred.

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Two of the women held captive for a decade at a run-down Cleveland house were welcomed home by jubilant crowds of loved ones and neighbors with balloons and banners Wednesday as police built a case against the three brothers under arrest.

The families of the two young women, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, protectively took them inside, past hundreds of reporters and onlookers. Neither woman spoke, and their families pleaded for patience and time alone.

“Give us time and privacy to heal,” said Sandra Ruiz, DeJesus’ aunt. Ruiz thanked police for rescuing the three women and urged the public not to retaliate against the suspects or their families.

Charges were expected by the end of the day against the owner of the house where the women were discovered, Ariel Castro, 52, and brothers Onil, 50, and Pedro, 54. Police said they apparently bound their captives with ropes and chains.

Neighbors said that Ariel Castro took part in the search for one of the missing women, helped pass out fliers, performed music at a fundraiser for her and attended a candlelight vigil, where he comforted her mother. As recently as 2005, Castro was accused of repeated acts of violence against his children’s mother.

In a development that astonished and exhilarated much of Cleveland, the three women were rescued on Monday after Amanda Berry, 27, broke through a screen door at the Castro house and told a 911 dispatcher: “Help me. I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years and I’m, I’m here, I’m free now.”

Law enforcement officials left many questions unanswered, including how the women were taken captive, whether they were sexually abused and who fathered Berry’s 6-year-old daughter. Police spokesman Sammy Morris said ropes and chains were taken from the house.

On NBC’s “Today” show, Police Chief Michael McGrath said he was “absolutely” sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years. He disputed claims by neighbors that officers had been called to the house before for suspicious circumstances.

“We have no record of those calls coming in over the past 10 years,” McGrath said. On Tuesday, some neighbors said that they had told police years ago about hearing pounding on the doors of the home and seeing a naked woman crawling in the yard.

DeJesus, who disappeared in 2004 and is in her early 20s, arrived home in the afternoon Wednesday to chants of “Gina! Gina!” Wearing a bright yellow hooded sweatshirt, she was led through the crowd and into the house by a woman who put her arm around the young woman’s shoulders and held her tight.

Berry arrived at her sister’s home, which was similarly festooned with dozens of colorful balloons and signs, one reading “We Never Lost Hope Mandy.” Hundreds cheered wildly but weren’t able to get a glimpse of Berry as she went in through the back.

The third captive, Michelle Knight, 32, was reported in good condition at Metro Health Medical Center, which a day earlier had reported that all three victims had been released. There was no immediate explanation from the hospital.

A 2005 domestic-violence filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court accused Ariel Castro of twice breaking the nose of his children’s mother, knocking out a tooth, dislocating each shoulder and threatening to kill her and her daughters three or four times in a year.

The filing for a protective order by Grimilda Figueroa also said that Castro frequently abducted her daughters and kept them from her.

In 1993, Castro was arrested on a domestic-violence charge and spent three days in jail before he was released on bail. A grand jury did not return an indictment against him, according to court documents, which don’t detail the allegations. It was unclear who brought the charge.

Meanwhile, the aunt of a 14-year-old girl who disappeared in 2007 near the house where the missing women were found said the girl’s mother has spoken with the FBI.

“We’re hoping for our miracle, too,” said Debra Summers, who described her niece, Ashley Summers, as not the type of girl who would leave without coming back.

The FBI did not immediately return a call about the case and whether it was connected to that of the three missing women.



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