Homecomings for freed Cleveland kidnap victims
Two newly freed Cleveland women had family homecomings after a decade of captivity in a house where police said chains and ropes had been used to hold them prisoner.PT0M0S 620 349
The alleged captor of three women who were kidnapped in the US and held hostage for a decade subjected his victims to "mind games" and reportedly threatened one of them while she was pregnant that if her baby died during delivery, she would too.
Details continue to emerge of the terror allegedly inflicted by 52-year-old Ariel Castro in a Cleveland home on Amanda Berry, now 27, Michelle Knight, 32, and Gina DeJesus, 23, after each was abducted between 2002 and 2004.
DeJesus is the only one of the three who does not believe she became pregnant to Castro despite his repeated rapes, local television station WEWS reported.
The hostages had not been outside their suburban prison for 10 years. Photo: Getty Images
The women were allegedly kept bound by chains and ropes in Castro's basement, and each was subject to years of sexual and physical abuse.
Inside the Seymour Avenue house, the three women who last celebrated birthdays with their families about a decade ago saw year after year perversely marked by Castro's serving of a cake on the day each woman was abducted, according to one of DeJesus's cousins.
"He would celebrate their abduction day as their new birthday," the cousin said, adding that DeJesus had pleaded with family not to ask her about her years in captivity.
The house of Amanda Berry's sister, where the kidnap victim has returned to. Photo: AFP
Berry and Knight both lost several unborn babies because of beatings.
When Berry's baby Jocelyn was born in a plastic paddling pool in 2007, Castro told Berry that if the baby died, so would she, according to WEWS, which quoted an unnamed law enforcement source.
The baby stopped breathing, but Berry gave her mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
Amanda Berry, centre, is believed to have given birth in a plastic paddle pool. Photo: AFP
One city councillor in the area said many details of the women's terror remained unclear, including how many pregnancies there had been and how the miscarriages occurred.
Other unnamed police sources told another local TV station that Castro used a "sick" game to "train" his captives not to run away.
Sources told WOIO-TV that Castro would "play this little dangerous game that he would tell the women he was about to leave the home, and then he would wait and if one of them tried to open that door, he would go in and attack them".
Ariel Castro has been charged. Photo: Reuters
It is believed the women were allowed to leave the home briefly on two occasions, both times to go "into the garage in disguise," deputy police chief Ed Tomba said.
"They were in that home. They don't believe they've been outside of the home for the last 10 years," he said.
"They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know each other was there."
Victim Gina DeJesus. Photo: AP
Berry was last seen on April 21, 2003, when she left work at a fast food restaurant just a few blocks from her home.
DeJesus was 14 when she vanished while walking home from school on April 2, 2004.
Knight, who was 20 at the time of her disappearance, was last seen at a cousin's house on August 23, 2002.
Police say no connection has been established between the Castro case and the disappearance of another teenager, Ashley Summers, in the same area in 2007.
Castro has now been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape and is expected to appear before a court on Thursday, US time.
According to unnamed WEWS-TV sources, a suicide note written by Castro several years ago outlines what he did and why.
He reportedly writes about needing help for sex addiction and blames his victims for getting into a car with him. The note also refers to family problems and a poor childhood.
Meanwhile, while Berry was kicking down the chained door that kept her, DeJesus and Knight captive, Castro was at his mother's house, mowing the lawn.
It was typical of the outwardly mundane life Castro led, which apparently included outings with a daughter he is believed to have fathered with one of the captives.
- Adrian Lowe, with agencies