Cleveland 'kidnapper' could face execution

2013-05-10 08:15
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Cleveland kidnapper in court

The man suspected of raping and kidnapping three women, holding them hostage in his Ohio home, has appeared in court.

Cleveland — A man suspected of raping and kidnapping three women who vanished for about a decade before a dramatic escape from his Ohio home made his first court appearance on Thursday, and a prosecutor said he may seek the death penalty for forced miscarriages. The horrors the women suffered began to come to light, including the birth of a surviving child in an inflatable pool.

Ariel Castro, aged 52, was silent, looking at the ground, biting his collar and signing documents with his handcuffed hands. He was ordered held on $8m bond.

Investigators say the women — lured into Castro's car at the ages of 14, 16 and 20 — endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away.

Authorities say the women had multiple forced miscarriages. Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said state law calls for the death penalty for the "most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping". He said aggravated murder charges could be filed related to pregnancies terminated by force.

Assistant county prosecutor Brian Murphy said Castro used the women "in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit". Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times in the house and were kept in different rooms.

Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping — covering the captives and the child — and three counts of rape, against all three women.

No charges against brothers

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported on Thursday that one of the women, Amanda Berry, gave birth to her daughter in an inflatable swimming pool.

A police report obtained by the newspaper said Castro forced another of his alleged captives, Michelle Knight, to deliver the baby and threatened to kill her if the infant did not survive. The baby stopped breathing, and Knight resuscitated the child by breathing into her, the report said.

The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

None of the women gave any indication that Castro's two brothers, who had been in custody since Monday, were involved, Tomba said. Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence. The brothers appeared in court on unrelated charges and were released.

"Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Tomba said.

One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long.

Paternity test

The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004.

They never saw a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week, when Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.

In newly released police audio tapes, an emergency dispatcher tells 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."

After police arrive at the house, women can be heard crying. An officer tells the dispatcher: "We found 'em. We found 'em."

Also in the house was Berry's 6-year-old daughter. A paternity test on Castro was being done to establish whether he fathered the child.

Banging on the wall

Berry, aged 27, and Gina DeJesus, aged 22, were welcomed home on Wednesday by jubilant crowds. Family members hustled them inside. The third captive, Knight, aged 32, was reported in good condition at a local hospital.

The Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the names of the women were widely circulated by their families, friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their disappearance.

On Thursday, a musician who often practiced at Ariel Castro's house said he was there last week and heard noises, "like banging on the wall". Ricky Sanchez said he asked Castro about it, and he blamed it on the dogs. He also said Castro — a bass guitarist in merengue and salsa bands — liked to play his music loud inside.

Sanchez said he also noticed there were four or five locks on the outside door.

"When I was about to leave, I tried to open the door. I couldn't even, because there were so many locks in there," he said.

Ariel Castro's adult daughter, Arlene Castro, appeared on ABC on Thursday and tearfully said she was embarrassed and devastated upon learning of her father's suspected role in the kidnappings. Arlene Castro was walking home from school with DeJesus in 2004 just before she disappeared.

"I would like to say I'm absolutely so, so sorry," she said.

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

Read more on:    us  |  abductions  |  cleveland kidnappings

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