Ariel Castro, Cleveland Kidnap Suspect, May Face Death Penalty
(CLEVELAND) — An Ohio prosecutor said he may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man charged Thursday with the kidnap and rape of three women he allegedly brutalized for a decade while allegedly inducing abortions in at least one of the captives.
“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said Thursday, indicating that Castro will likely face additional charges of aggravated murder related to the pregnancies.
The death penalty is applicable under Ohio law for the “most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping,” McGinty said.
Castro allegedly induced abortions in one of his victims, Michele Knight, 32, on at least five separate occasions by punching her in the stomach.
But another alleged captive, Amanda Berry, carried a child to term, delivering the now 6-year-old girl in a plastic kiddie pool, police said.
Castro Thursday was charged with four counts of kidnapping, one for each woman and the 6-year-old child whom Berry delivered while in captivity. He was charged with three counts of rape.
Bail was set at $2 million per case, for a total of $8 million. Castro is an unemployed, former school bus driver.
Castro, who also reportedly told investigators he is a “sex addict,” is being held in isolation at an Ohio jail.
Investigators discovered a note at his home on Seymour Avenue, according to ABC News affiliate WEWS-TV, where police say Castro kept the women bound and prevented them from leaving. In the note, believed to have been written in 2004 or 2005, Castro expresses remorse for his actions and says he is addicted to sex, the station reported.
In court Thursday morning, Castro, 52, did not enter a plea or speak. Unshaven and wearing a dark-blue prison jumpsuit, he kept his head down through the proceedings and signed documents with shackled hands.
“The situation has turned,” Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecutor Brian Murphy told the court. “Castro is the captive in captivity.”
Castro is being held in “administrative segregation” at the Cuyahoga County Jail, isolated from other prisoners. He is on suicide watch, but officials do not believe he is a threat to himself, WEWS reported.
Castro likely will face additional charges after a grand jury hearing. He was represented Thursday by a public defender.
Despite years of looking for the women — Amanda Berry, 27, Michele Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, 23 — who individually went missing between 2002 and 2004, there were no leads in any of the cases until Monday, when a neighbor heard Berry screaming from behind a locked door and helped free the women.
Castro’s two brothers, Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54, who were arrested with him, were not charged in connection with this case. Both men appeared in court on old misdemeanor charges.
Onil was given credit for time he served while being questioned since Monday. Charges against Pedro were dropped. They were both released Thursday morning.
Following his arraignment, Castro’s mother offered an apology to the victims. “I am really suffering and I ask those mothers to forgive me and the girls to forgive me. I am suffering what they suffered because I am suffering for my son,” Lilian Rodriguez told reporters Thursday. “My son is sick. I have nothing to do with what he did.”
The court documents released Wednesday give the clearest clues yet in the investigation on how the women were treated in captivity. Ariel Castro lured each victim from the street and into his car, according to the documents. Knight was abducted first in 2002 and brought to the kidnap suspect’s modest two-story home on Seymour Avenue. She would later be joined by Berry in 2003 and DeJesus a year later.
Police made it clear they believe that each kidnap victim was “repeatedly sexually assaulted by the defendant,” and that the abuse occurred “during the entire course of captivity,” according to charging documents filed in court Wednesday.
The women were initially chained in the basement and sexually assaulted, a senior official from the Cleveland Police Department told ABC News. Later, when their “spirits were broken,” they were allowed to be in other parts of the house, the official said.
The little girl, named Jocelyn, was born Christmas Day in 2006, Amanda Berry told her family in a phone call on Tuesday, according to WEWS.
Jocelyn, police say, was the captive who had the most freedom, officials said. The 6-year-old left the house occasionally with the suspect, Cleveland Chief of Police Michael McGrath told ABC News. Police said they were conducting a paternity test and were not yet certain the baby was fathered by Castro.
“She did leave the house. I have information that she did leave the house occasionally with the suspect,” McGrath said Wednesday.
As Knight remains hospitalized, Berry and DeJesus returned home Wednesday to reunite with family members they have not seen in a decade.
DeJesus didn’t speak much when she arrived home, but immediately bonded with her family members, her relatives told ABC News. Upon seeing her father for the first time in the hospital, DeJesus asked her father, “Dad, did you stop smoking yet?”
Family members also told ABC News that DeJesus had forgotten how to speak Spanish.
Hours earlier, Berry arrived at her sister Beth Serrano’s home with Jocelyn. Serrano asked for privacy for her sister as she readjusts to life outside of captivity.
Meanwhile, FBI Evidence Response Team and a K-9 Unit Wednesday entered a vacant house two doors from the suspect’s house dressed in hazmat suits. There has been no comment on why the home was searched and whether anything of significance was found.
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