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Published: Thursday, 5/9/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Suspect faces charges of kidnapping, rape in Cleveland missing women case

Officials confirm all 3 women were allegedly raped during 10 years in captivity

BY TAYLOR DUNGJEN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Amanda Berry, left, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, were freed Monday after more than 10 years in captivity. Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus returned home Wednesday after release from the hospital. Amanda Berry, left, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, were freed Monday after more than 10 years in captivity. Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus returned home Wednesday after release from the hospital.
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CLEVELAND — As two of three women held captive for more than a decade went home to their families and passed crowds of onlookers on Wednesday, charges were filed against the man accused of kidnapping and raping them.

Ariel Castro, 52, faces four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. He is set to be arraigned in Cleveland Municipal Court today.

During a news conference Wednesday, officials confirmed that the three adult victims — Amanda Berry, 27; Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 — were raped, allegedly by Mr. Castro. Police said the suspect provided them with a lengthy statement and is cooperating with investigators.

RELATED: Kaptur aide attends DeJesus homecoming

Mr. Castro’s brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, who were considered additional suspects, were not charged with crimes related to the kidnapped women. The two brothers have outstanding warrants, officials said.

In the time the women were held in Mr. Castro’s Seymour Avenue home in Cleveland’s near-west side, near the Tremont neighborhood, they only recalled leaving the home twice, said Edward Tomba, deputy chief of Cleveland police.

The women, wearing disguises, had gone from the home to the garage, never leaving the property. Monday marked the first opportunity the women had to escape, Deputy Chief Tomba said.

“Something must have clicked and [Ms. Berry] saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity,” he said.

He would not elaborate on how Ms. Berry was able to free herself and shout for help.

Investigators said the women apparently were bound with ropes and chains, and a city councilman briefed on the case said they were subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages.

Felix DeJesus acknowledges the crowd after bringing home daughter Gina after she was freed from captivity after 10 years. Felix DeJesus acknowledges the crowd after bringing home daughter Gina after she was freed from captivity after 10 years.
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Deputy Chief Tomba declined to comment about the 6-year-old girl found in Mr. Castro’s home. Officials believe the girl is the daughter of Ms. Berry and said a paternity test would be conducted. Police would not comment on other possible births.

Neighbors reported seeing the young girl with the suspect on a handful of occasions. Despite neighbors’ accounts of seeing naked women crawling around in the backyard, police said there was no evidence to substantiate the claims.

Ms. Knight was reported to still be at MetroHealth Medical Center in good condition. Ms. Berry was the first to go home on Wednesday.

She was taken into her sister’s home through a back door, out of sight from hundreds of reporters and onlookers. The sister’s home was decorated with balloons and stuffed animals.

One banner read, “We never lost hope Mandy.”

Ms. Berry’s sister was swarmed by dozens of reporters as she made a brief statement asking for people to respect the family’s privacy.

As she was circled, one woman screamed, “Shame on you!” to the media.

“You can’t run up on people like that,” she said.

A sign on the porch greets Amanda Berry after her release from captivity. Ms. Berry was taken into her sister's home through a back door, out of sight from reporters and onlookers. A sign on the porch greets Amanda Berry after her release from captivity. Ms. Berry was taken into her sister's home through a back door, out of sight from reporters and onlookers.
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Marianne Schulte, 57, who lives near Ms. Berry’s sister, went to Ms. Berry’s home to experience the homecoming for herself.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “I never expected this.”

Ms. Schulte did not take issue with the media presence, but said the rush on Ms. Berry’s sister was disrespectful.

“Let’s show some respect,” she said. “If they keep doing that, the media will hinder the healing.”

She also hoped the media would show that Clevelanders are quick to come together in times of celebration and mourning.

“Most neighborhoods in Cleveland do care about their neighbors,” she said. “In my experience, most people don’t turn a blind eye.”

Hours later, Ms. DeJesus returned home to clapping and cheers. Her family’s home also was decorated with balloons, stuffed animals, and welcoming banners.

“Give us time and privacy to heal,” said Sandra Ruiz, Ms. DeJesus’ aunt. Ms. Ruiz asked the community to not retaliate against the Castro family.

Ms. DeJesus’ father, Felix, pumped his fist and spoke enthusiastically about the return of his daughter.

He said he wants to become an activist and help other families with missing children. He also urged people to keep a close watch on their children and others in their neighborhoods.

“Too many kids these days come up missing, and we always ask this question: ‘How come I didn’t see what happened to that kid?’ Why? Because we chose not to.”

Hundreds of people gathered at that home as well.

“This is crazy,” said Alysa Cooper, 20, of Cleveland. “Honestly, this is a miracle.”

Though Miss Cooper never met any of the women, she said, “They’re kind of like our family. I wish I could have done more to help them.”

There is no doubt, Miss Cooper said, that the women will overcome the struggles to adjust and heal.

“[They were] strong enough to survive those 10 years. I know [they] can survive this.”

Lashonda Beauregard, 32, of Maple Heights wanted to be at Ms. DeJesus’ homecoming to support the family.

“I have four daughters,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine.”

Police said FBI crime-scene technicians had completed their search of the home where the women were kept, but declined to say what evidence was taken.

As a result of the investigation, an additional house was being searched by the FBI, Deputy Chief Tomba said.

A Cleveland policeman carries balloons and flowers to the front porch of a home awaiting the arrival of Amanda Berry on Wednesday. A Cleveland policeman carries balloons and flowers to the front porch of a home awaiting the arrival of Amanda Berry on Wednesday.
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Seymour Avenue was again a hive of activity Wednesday.

Early, Maria Castro-Montes, a cousin of Mr. Castro, said her family had no idea that the women were in the house and were “stunned and shocked.”

“We’re as devastated as everyone else,” said the 45-year-old hospital administrator.

She asked that the Castro family not be judged by the “horrible actions” of her cousin. Mrs. Castro-Montes said her family would “love nothing more than to help these victims.”

It would be “an honor and a privilege” to “help mend the pain these girls have gone through.”

The mass media attention, drawing reporters from international news stations, brought out at least one hopeful family with a missing loved one.

“We need to know whether my sister is OK or not,” said Tonia Adkins, 32, of Cleveland.

Ms. Adkins visited Seymour Avenue with her stepmother to take advantage of the media attention in the hope of finding out what happened to Christina Adkins, who went missing 18 years ago.

Christina Adkins was 17 and five months pregnant when she failed to come home from a friend’s house on Jan. 10, 1995.

Mrs. Adkins said her daughter was last seen on West 25th Street, just several blocks from Mr. Castro’s home. She only needed to travel about two houses to get home.

“I believe she is still alive,” Ms. Adkins said.

Finding Ms. Berry, Ms. Knight, and Ms. DeJesus gave them more hope, the women said.

In the afternoon, a prayer vigil was held by community members. Led by Angel Lozada of Cleveland, more than a dozen people joined hands in a circle and prayed for the victims to find strength and for the community to be united.

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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