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.PT1M38S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2j8sz 620 349 May 9, 2013
- Chains and ropes found in Ariel Castro's house
- 'Suicide note' found explaining possible motives
- Berry and DeJesus make emotional homecomings
- Berry's daughter "happy and healthy"
- Ariel Castro charged with four counts of kidnapping
The man accused of holding three women captive for 10 years has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, amid further reports of the years of sexual abuse and beatings endured by the women in the Cleveland kidnapping case.
They were kept in a dungeon with chains. It was a sexual torture chamber run by this guy acting out his sick fantasies.
Investigators have also said they have recovered a suicide note left by Ariel Castro that hinted at his motives.
"Please respect our privacy until we are ready to make our statements": Beth Serrano. Photo: AP
‘‘We have confirmation that they were bound, and there were chains and ropes in the home,’’ said Michael McGrath, the Cleveland police chief.
Brothers Pedro and Onil are not being charged with crimes related to the kidnapping at this time, said Cleveland City prosecutor Victor Perez.
‘‘There is nothing that leads us to believe that they were involved or had any knowledge of this,’’ deputy city police chief Ed Tomba said of the brothers.
The family home Amanda Berry has been returned to. Photo: AFP
The fourth count of kidnapping related to the six-year old daughter of Amanda Berry.
Castro waived his rights and provided a detailed statement.
Investigators found a ‘‘suicide note’’ written by Castro, law enforcement sources told 19 Action News. In the note, apparently written several years ago outlining what he did and why, Castro apparently 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.
The father of kidnapping victim Gina DeJesus speaks to community members and the media. Photo: Getty Images
Investigators said the three young women were kept separately from each other but knew each other were present.
Authorities would make no comment on the suicide note. Two hundred items were recovered from the Seymour Avenue home, they said.
Police also said their investigation suggested that the girls were only outside the home on two occasions and there was no evidence of them being seen outside in the backyard, contrary to earlier media reports.
House of horrors: The home where the three women were found. Photo: Getty Images
Khalid Samad, a former assistant safety director for the city who saw the three women, Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, at hospital on Monday night, said: ‘‘They were kept in a dungeon with chains. It was a sexual torture chamber run by this guy acting out his sick fantasies.’’
Mr Samad, who became close to the families of the missing girls during the searches for them, said that law enforcement officials told him that at times the women became pregnant but that they lost their unborn babies after beatings.
‘‘They are extremely traumatised and they are slowly talking to investigators about what they went through, but nobody is rushing them at this stage. They are trying to reconnect the dots in their lives.’’
Free at last: Amanda Berry (with headband) is reunited with her sister following her escape. Photo: AFP
Local media revealed that suspect Ariel Castro would use psychological games to "train" the girls by pretending to leave the house, only to return unexpectedly and beat them if he found his victims trying to free themselves.
As the dark details of the Castro house come into focus, court documents have revealed that one of Ariel's daughters is serving time in an Indiana prison for attempted murder after she slashed her baby's throat four times with a knife.
Emily Castro, 25, was sentenced to 25 years and is at the Rockville, Indiana, Correctional Facility. She was found guilty in Allen County Superior Court of attempting to murder her 11-month-old daughter, according to a decision by the Court of Appeals of Indiana on November 5, 2008.
Gina DeJesus. Photo: AP
The current whereabouts of Emily Castro's child, who would be aged around seven now, could not immediately be determined.
Emily Castro, reported to have suffered from mental illness, slashed her daughter's throat four times with a knife on April 4, 2007 the day after the baby's father moved out of their Fort Wayne home, according to a court of appeals document.
US kidnap victim Amanda Berry arrived at her sister's house on Wednesday for an emotional reunion with her family a decade after she became one of three local women to be kidnapped.
Television images of the rear of the home showed someone carrying a small child, thought to be the six-year-old daughter Berry bore during her time as a prisoner of three suspected kidnappers in a house in Cleveland, Ohio.
Anthony Castro. Photo: Facebook
Shortly after an SUV with darkened windows arrived at the family residence, bedecked in balloons and banners and surrounded by well wishers and reporters, Berry's sister Beth Serrano emerged to make a brief statement.
"I want to thank the public and media for their support and courage over the years. At this time our family would request privacy so my sister and niece and I can have time to recover," she told a thicket of microphones and lenses.
"We appreciate all you have done for us throughout the past ten years. Please respect our privacy until we are ready to make our statements. And thank you," she added, before breaking down in tears.
Charged: Ariel Castro, 52. Photo: Reuters
When Berry's car drove up, Jessica Duna, a 50-year-old housekeeper who lives in neighbourhood, said: "Oh my God, it just stopped my heart. It's just sad that her mother isn't here right now. Its heartbreaking."
Posters hanging on the home's front verandah, surrounded by flowers and balloons, declared: "We never lost hope Mandy" and "Welcome home."
DeJesus also arrived home in an emotional reunion with her family.
Pedro Castro, 54. Photo: Reuters
Her parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, and aunt Sandra Ruiz thanked the police and FBI for their assistance in the investigation. They asked for patience and promised to take reporter questions soon.
"The three of them are doing great. Those were miracles," Nancy Ruiz said of her daughter, Berry and Knight.
Michelle Knight, meanwhile, had been readmitted to the hospital but was "in good condition", WKYC in Cleveland reported.
Onil Castro, 50. Photo: Reuters
Kidnap suspect's son tells of padlocks on rooms
Ariel Castro padlocked the doors leading to his garage, basement and attic and forbade his family from entering them, his son Anthony Castro said.
Castro had spoken to his son last month about the mysterious disappearance 10 years ago of Berry.
Anthony told the Daily Mail that he had visited his father's home on Seymour Avenue two weeks ago, not suspecting that three women could be locked in the basement.
He said his father was a very secretive man and barred him from entering certain rooms.
Photographs taken inside the home show a padlock on the door leading to the basement.
''The house was always locked,'' Anthony said. ''There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.''
Anthony said his father last month asked him whether he thought police would ever find Amanda Berry, who disappeared in 2003. When Anthony responded that he thought Berry was probably dead, Ariel responded: ''Really? You think so?''
On news that Berry had had a daughter in captivity, Anthony said: ''If it's true that he took her [Berry] captive and forced her into having sex with him and having his child and keeping her hidden and keeping them from sunlight, he really took those girls' lives. He doesn't deserve to have his own life any more. He deserves to be behind bars for the rest of his life. I'm just thankful they're alive.''
Anthony, a banker who lives in Columbus, Ohio, told the Daily Mail that his father was a violent man who separated from his mother in the 1990s.
He said his father nearly beat his mother to death in 1993 while she was recovering from brain surgery.
Anthony said he only spoke to his father a few times a year, and seldom visited his house. ''I haven't been at that house for longer than 20 minutes for longer than I can remember,'' Anthony said.
''It's astonishing to even think about that I was so close to that. That I was physically at the house two weeks ago while that was going on, it's a lot to grasp.''
Anthony said he had no idea what role his uncles could have played in the ordeal. However, he said he did not believe the three women were kept at Ariel's house for the entire 10 years.
He said his uncle Onil, who also owns a house and lives alone, might have been involved in keeping the women in captivity.
''My dad's brothers were the two closest people to him. My dad's a really private person. If anybody knew what he was doing it would be those two,'' Anthony said.
Amanda Berry's daughter 'happy, healthy'
A six-year-old girl was also rescued from the house, authorities said. The Daily Mail reported that Amanda Berry told her grandmother after the escape that the child is her daughter Jocelyn.
Authorities believe the father is one of the three suspects they arrested.
Jocelyn was born at Christmas and is "happy and healthy", despite being brought up in captivity. She was later pictured smiling in hospital alongside her mother and Aunt Beth.
Police said she ate popsicles while being examined by doctors, the Daily Mail reported.
"She looks great, happy, healthy and ate a popsicle last night," said Cleveland Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba. "Seeing her mother smile made her smile."
It has emerged that Berry home-schooled her daughter - probably without the knowledge of the suspects. "It's a good possibility one of them is [the father]," Mr Tomba said.
He said investigators were working to determine if the girl had ever left the house, but said she likely would have gone unnoticed by police who were not looking for a child.
Authorities do not have a record of her birth and detectives are trying to establish if she was born in the fortified home.
Police sources said Jocelyn was occasionally taken out of the house and would visit Ariel Castro's mother, Lillian Rodriguez, who she called "grandmother".
She was also seen out recently at a playground with Castro.
About a week ago, Castro took the six-year-old girl to a nearby park, where they played in the grass, said Israel Lugo, a neighbour who lives down the street.‘‘I asked him whose kid was it, and he told me his girlfriend’s daughter,’’ Lugo said.
At least five children may have born at the house, police sources told NewsChannel5.
One of the victims suffered as many as three miscarriages because she was so malnourished, it has been claimed.
Other sources told WKYC that the captors would beat the women when they were pregnant, meaning that the babies would not survive.
Knight was abducted in 2002 at age 20, making her the first kidnap victim of the three girls freed this week. Knight told local media that when she was first brought to the Castro house, there had been another person held there at the time.
The rescue of the women and child came almost by accident, when Berry, now 27, hailed a neighbour while her alleged captor was out, escaped with Jocelyn through a blocked front door with the neighbour's help and called 911.
The home was owned by Castro, 52, a former school bus driver and musician who was arrested with his brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50.
Berry, 27, Knight, 32, and DeJesus, about 23, had apparently been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, police said.
The women vanished separately a decade ago only blocks from the 130-square-metre suburban house where they were found on Monday night.
The nightmare of not knowing continues for one family, that of Ashley Summers, who was 14 when she disappeared in 2007 from the same Cleveland neighbourhood.
She was presumed to have run away from home after a dispute but was never seen or heard from again. In 2009, the FBI said they suspected a link between Ashley's disappearance and those of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.
Police sources in Ohio told TV station WKYC that the three women were repeatedly raped and beaten by their captors. The sources also said the young women, who were abducted in their teens, had had up to five pregnancies between them.
Suspect active in searches
Ariel Castro had been active in neighbourhood searches and vigils for the girls, neighbours say.
Just like everyone else in the tight-knit, mostly Puerto Rican neighbourhood of Cleveland, Castro seemed shaken by the 2004 disappearance of DeJesus and another teenager who went missing the year before.
When neighbours gathered for a candlelight vigil just a year ago to remember one of the girls, Antony Quiros said he was at the vigil and saw Castro comforting DeJesus’ mother.
One neighbour, Francisco Cruz, said he was with Castro the day investigators dug up a yard looking for the girls. Castro told Cruz, "They’re not going to find anyone there," Cruz recalled.
Police now are conducting an internal review to see if they overlooked anything.
City Safety Director Martin Flask said on Tuesday that investigators had no record of anyone calling about criminal activity at the house, but were still checking police, fire and emergency databases.
Two neighbours said they called police to the Castro house on separate occasions.
Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses away, said her daughter saw a naked woman crawling in the backyard several years ago and called police.‘‘But they didn’t take it seriously,’’ she said.
Another neighbour, Israel Lugo, said he heard pounding on some of the doors of the house in November 2011.
Lugo said officers knocked on the front door, but no one answered.‘‘They walked to side of the house and then left,’’ he said.
Police did go to the house twice in the past 15 years, but not in connection with the women’s disappearance, officials said.
Berry's mother, Louwana, died in 2006, three years after her daughter disappeared.