After a more than a decade, missing teens Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were discovered in a neglected house in Cleveland, Ohio. Berry broke out the house and called for help, leading to the rescue of the women and one young girl. Prosecutors have charged their alleged captor with multiple counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated homicide and are exploring a possible death sentence.
Ariel Castro was initially charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape on May 8, 2013. Although he was arrested with his brothers, Onil and Pedro Castro, neither was charged.
As more information came out, the charges piled up. As of July 12, 2013, The Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office reported the charges were as follows:
— Two counts of aggravated murder. The victims testified that Ariel Castro starved and punched one of the women until she miscarried.
— 446 counts of rape
—512 counts of kidnapping.
— Seven counts of gross sexual imposition.
— Six counts of felonious assault.
— Three counts of child endangerment.
— One count of possessing criminal tools.
Castro ultimately pleaded guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape, avoiding a lengthy trial and possibly the death penalty. He was sentenced August 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
“I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years,” so declared 27-year-old Amanda Berry in her call to 911 on May 6, 2013, ten years after she disappeared on her way home from her shift at Burger King on April 21, 2003.
Berry, along with Georgina “Gina” DeJesus and Michelle Knight, had been missing for over a decade when they broke out of a ramshackle, boarded-up home in a low-income neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio.
Homeowner Ariel Castro had left the house when Amanda Berry seized her opportunity. She found a weak spot in the door of the house and began clawing her way through it. When neighbors Angel Cordero and Charles Ramsey saw what was going on and heard the commotion Berry was making, they helped her break the door down, evidently no easy feat. A six-year-old child, apparently Berry’s daughter, was with her.
Ramsey and Berry called 911, and the police arrived at the scene moments later. Berry told them there were other women inside, and police retrieved DeJesus and Knight. In Berry’s 911 call, she identified Ariel Castro as her captor.
Castro, along with his brothers Pedro Castro and Onil Castro, were arrested on May 6, 2013 at a McDonald’s. The investigation into the home where the women were kept revealed a hellish torture chamber, where the women were chained up, raped, fed through a hole in the door, beaten for escape attempts, where Knight was repeatedly impregnated then beaten and starved and where the anniversary of their abductions was celebrated like a birthday.
No charges were filed against Pedro and Onil Castro after investigators determined they had no knowledge of the kidnapped women or their brother’s house of horrors.
Cuyahoga County prosecutors responded swiftly and sternly to the devastating details provided by the victims. “Based on the facts, I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies” during the years the women were held, McGinty said during a televised news conference.
Castro avoided a lengthy trial and possibly the death penalty when he pleaded guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced August 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
“I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” Castro said at his sentencing.
Knight was the only one of the three kidnapped women who appeared in court at his sentencing.
“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” Knight told a captivated courtroom.
However, Castro was found dead on September 3, 2013 — only a month after his sentencing — in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, located south of Columbus in central Ohio.
Ariel Castro: 52-year-old former school bus driver who owned the home, although apparently neither he nor his brothers actually lived there. In her 911 call to police, Amanda Berry identified Ariel Castro as the man who was holding her against her will. Castro had been cited for domestic violence and domestic disturbances in the past, before the victims were abducted, but he was never formally charged with crimes. A 2005 filing in the Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court also shows a record for domestic abuse. In a creepy twist, Castro’s son, also named Ariel, wrote a story about Gina DeJesus’ kidnapping while he was a journalism student. Castro’s daughter, Arlene Castro, was a classmate of DeJesus and told America’s Most Wanted that she was the last person to see the girl before her disappearance. Castro is also a bass musician and an occasional member of Grupo Fuego, a Cleveland Merengue band. Investigators determined that Castro acted alone. He ultimately plead guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape, avoiding a lengthy trial and possibly the death penalty. He was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years but was found dead in his prison cell less than a month later from an apparent suicide.
Amanda Berry: 27-year-old Berry was kidnapped ten years ago, when she was 16 years old and on her way home from her shift at Burger King. She was discovered on May 6, 2013 after she broke through a weak spot in the door and yelled for help. She was assisted by neighbor Charles Ramsey, who broke down the door and helped her and a six-year-old girl out of the house. When Berry originally disappeared, the manhunt took over the city of Cleveland. Investigators dug up backyards looking for her remains and fielded tips on her possible whereabouts for years.
Charles Ramsey: A dishwasher at Hodge’s Restaurant in downtown Cleveland, Ramsey is the neighbor who broke down the door to rescue Berry and the other victims. He also called 911 to obtain police help. He has been outspoken in the media, and his comments, such as he knew something was wrong when “a little pretty white girl” ran into a black man’s arms and that Castro “got some big testicles to pull this off, bro,” has solidified him as a Cleveland character. Wild About Trial is a fan of Ramsey, however. Here’s a man who was sitting on his porch, eating his McDonald’s, when he saw Berry try to break out of the house. Instead of ignoring the situation, as police and neighbors had done for years, he went over and broke down the door, ultimately rescuing the three women and the child.
Georgina “Gina” DeJesus: DeJesus has been held captive in the Castro house since she was 14 years old. Her disappearance was also highly publicized locally. Two men were held for questioning in her disappearance in 2006, but the leads went nowhere.
Michelle Knight: Like DeJesus, Knight has also been a prisoner of the Castro house for a decade. She was the first of the three captured women to disappear, in August 2002, when she was 21 years old. Few leads were ever reported to the police regarding her whereabouts, and her disappearance was not highly publicized, possibly because police and her family believed she ran away.
Angel Cordero: A neighbor who assisted with rescuing Berry from the house. His media interaction has been far more limited than Charles Ramsey’s, however, because he does not speak English.
Pedro Castro: 54-year-old brother of Ariel Castro, also arrested on suspicion of involvement in the kidnappings of Berry, DeJesus and Knight. Longtime acquaintances described the Castro brothers as heavy drinkers. Investigators determined that Ariel Castro acted alone and Pedro Castro was never charged with a crime in this case.
Onil Castro: 50-year-old brother of Ariel and Pedro Castro, also arrested on suspicion of involvement in the kidnappings of Berry, DeJesus and Knight. Investigators determined that Ariel Castro acted alone and Onil Castro was never charged with a crime in this case.
‘Extra’ Crime Panel: Cleveland Kidnappings And Jodi Arias
Charles Ramsey 911 Call On Behalf Of Missing Woman Amanda Berry
May 7, 2013: With so much investigation ahead of the Cleveland police department, it’s hard to say where this case is going. For example, since the women have not yet been interviewed, we do not know if rape or sexual abuse will be a component of this case. We do not know who the father of the young girl believed to be Berry’s daughter is, and we do not know if there were other children or pregnancies that may not have survived. Speculation is grim work, but these are the questions that law enforcement authorities will need to answer before the final indictment against the Castro brothers.
It goes without saying that police and prosecutors will examine every possible angle to try to prosecute the Castro brothers to the hilt for their involvement in the gruesome abduction of these young women.
Felony cases in Ohio are brought before a grand jury before filing. A grand jury is a citizen group chosen to hear potential cases before they are filed. In Ohio, the prosecution presents the evidence they have gathered to the grand jury and the grand jury decides if the accused should be charged with a serious crime. Ohio grand jurors usually serve a term of several months and they are chosen from a pool of registered voters.
May 10, 2013: This case is even grimmer than we could have predicted. ……
July 26, 2013: Ariel Castro has pleaded guilty, finally putting an end to this nightmare of a case. The agreement his attorneys negotiated with prosecutors spares Castro of the death penalty but ensures that Castro will spend the rest of his life in the state’s custody. He will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (what lawyers call an LWOP) plus 1,000 years.
Castro was facing an indictment of close to one thousand counts spanning the Ohio criminal code. The many counts of kidnapping, rape and child endangerment corresponded roughly with the time the three women and the child were in captivity, and the homicide charges stemmed from Castro allegedly beating a pregnant Michelle Knight to induce miscarriages.
The litany of charges from Cuyahoga County prosecutors, including the kidnapping charges which Castro’s own lawyers admitted were not defensible, meant that Castro was looking at a lifetime prison sentence in any case. The death penalty was the defense’s only bargaining chip.
Had the case gone to trial, the death penalty was not at all a sure thing. The aggravated homicide charges based on Knight’s miscarriages would have been tricky for prosecutors. Proving that Knight’s pregnancies were viable to begin with may not have been possible. Certainly, a northeast Ohio jury would be outraged by Castro’s conduct and would punish him to the fullest extent of the law, but the law might not extend to capital punishment, even in this most egregious case.
However, the prosecution had a far more significant incentive to wrap the case up quickly and abandon their death penalty claim. The victims and their families would not be served by long, drawn-out litigation. They would only be harmed by a by a long trial and public testimony and by the intense media scrutiny that would accompany such a high-profile case. They would not be able to move on until it was over.
This speedy resolution allows the victims, their families and indeed the wounded city of Cleveland to heal.