Ariel Castro may face death penalty
WARNING: This story contains disturbing details
An Ohio prosecutor said Thursday he may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, saying the man accused of raping and imprisoning three women in his home forced them to suffer miscarriages.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said aggravated murder charges could be filed related to pregnancies terminated by force. And Ohio law calls for the death penalty for the "most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping," McGinty said.
"Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct," he said. "The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life."
Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is being held on $8-million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping for allegedly abducting three women and holding them captive in his home for a decade.
McGinty said Castro would be charged for every single act of sexual violence, assault and other crimes committed against the women, suggesting the charges could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.
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In court Thursday, authorities laid out more of their case against Castro, saying he lured the women into his car, beat them repeatedly over a decade and used them "in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit," as prosecutor Brian Murphy put it.
Born in captivity
Other chilling details in the police report came to light on Thursday.
Amanda Berry, now 27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Berry said she, her baby, now six, and the two other rescued women had never been to a doctor during their captivity.
Michelle Knight, now 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks and "repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried."
She also said Castro forced her to deliver Berry's baby under threat of death if the infant died. Knight said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived the child through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
All of the women — the third is Gina DeJesus, now 22 — said Castro chained them up in the basement but eventually let them live upstairs on the second floor. Each woman told a similar story about being abducted after accepting a ride from Castro.
Investigators said that the women could recall being outside only twice in the past decade and that they were apparently bound with ropes and chains.
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Their escape began with Berry's discovery that a door was unlocked, leaving only a bolted outer door between her and freedom, according to the police report.
Berry feared it was a test: She said Castro occasionally left a door unlocked to test them. But she called to neighbours on a porch for help and was able to get out.
Police then entered the house and found the other women, who threw themselves into the officers' arms.
The women were between 14 and 20 years old when they vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. Castro had lured each of them into his vehicle, according to court documents.
During his brief arraignment, Castro tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his collar. He appeared to close his eyes during the hearing and awkwardly signed documents while handcuffed. He did not speak or enter a plea.
Kathleen DeMetz, a public defender assigned to represent him at the hearing, didn't comment on his guilt or innocence or object when prosecutors recommended bail be set at $5 million. The judge, instead, ordered Castro held on $8 million.
Castro has been in custody since Monday.
Berry and DeJesus went home with relatives on Wednesday. Knight was reported in good condition at a Cleveland hospital.
Castro's two brothers, who were arrested but later cleared of involvement in the kidnapping case, appeared in court on unrelated charges and were released. They left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Pedro Castro, 54, pleaded no contest to an open container charge, while two charges against Onil Castro, 50, were dismissed.