(CLEVELAND) — The mother of Gina DeJesus, whom Ariel Castro allegedly abducted and kept as a sex slave in his Cleveland home for a decade, had a surprising answer when asked what she would say to Castro.
“I would hug him and I would say, ‘God bless you.’ I would say, ‘God bless you,’ and I’d hug him. I did not hate him. I forgave him years ago. I said it: I forgive whoever done it, just let her go,” Nancy Ruiz told 20/20 anchor David Muir in an exclusive interview Thursday.
“Because you know what?” Ruiz added. “When you start to hate a person, that eats you up. I don’t have time for that. I have to be, you know, I want to be happy, like I am now.”
Ariel Castro’s cousin, Maria Castro Montes, had a different answer when Muir asked her the same question.
“I wouldn’t be able to look at him. I couldn’t say anything to him. Why? Shame on you? How could you do this? I don’t even want to ask him those questions. I don’t even want to look at him,” Montes said in an exclusive interview Thursday.
Montes described seeing Castro, 52, occasionally over the time he allegedly held the three women captive.
“When I saw him, I loved him,” she said. “This is a man who I loved. This is a man who was a family member. This is a man who has his own family. He has kids, he has grandkids. Those are the ones who have to be suffering the greatest. I don’t even know what to say to his kids.”
DeJesus, 23, was reunited with her family on Wednesday after nearly 10 years spent as the alleged prisoner of Castro, a man her mother knew for years.
For years after DeJesus’ abduction, Castro, who grew up in the same community as Ruiz, would offer the family his support.
As recently as last year, Castro asked Ruiz, “How are you doing?” never indicating he was allegedly keeping her daughter a captive just miles from where she lived.
Ruiz said DeJesus told her that she and two other women, Amanda Berry, 27, and Michelle Knight, 30, were kept chained in the basement of the basement. Later on, they were allowed upstairs and kept in two separate bedrooms for much of the time.
DeJesus and Knight were often kept in one bedroom. Berry and her daughter, 6, whom she gave birth to while in captivity, were held in a second room, Ruiz said.
The women were freed on Monday, when Berry screamed for help from behind a locked door, alerting neighbors who helped kick down the door and called police.
Castro was arraigned Thursday in an Ohio court on charges of kidnapping and rape. Bond was set at $8 million. He did not enter a plea.
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