Ohio Man Gets Life Sentence For Kidnapping Of 3 Women

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

Associated Press Release
By: THOMAS J. SHEERAN and ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS

CLEVELAND (AP) -- The Ohio man convicted of holding three women captive in his Cleveland house over a decade and raping them repeatedly has been sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years.

Fifty-three-year-old Ariel Castro was being given his sentence Thursday. He had pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault.

A plea deal struck last week spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving a pregnant victim until she miscarried.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

They escaped to freedom May 6 when one of them, Amanda Berry, broke out part of the door to Castro's house and yelled to neighbors for help.


Associated Press Release

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A sentencing hearing is under way for a man convicted of imprisoning three women in his Cleveland house for years and repeatedly raping and beating them.

The hearing for Ariel Castro began with his attorneys objecting to prosecutors' plans to present details of the women's ordeal.

Defense attorney Craig Weintraub says those facts were appropriate for a trial, which Castro agreed to avoid by pleading guilty.

Weintraub says the goal now should be to protect the privacy of the three women.

Assistant Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County Prosecutor Blaise Thomas says it's appropriate to show the world what Castro did.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault in a deal that could bring a life sentence plus 1,000 years.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Three months after an Ohio woman kicked out part of a door to end nearly a decade of captivity, a onetime school bus driver faces sentencing for kidnapping three women and subjecting them to years of sexual and physical abuse.

Prosecutors are expected to detail Ariel Castro's daily assaults on the women, recounted in diaries that compared the women's experience to that of prisoners of war. With the possibility of the death penalty for a forced miscarriage taken off the table, Castro stands to get life in prison plus 1,000 years on Thursday.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday that Castro, who chained his captives and fed them only one meal a day, "admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct" but "remains remorseless for his actions."

The memorandum says many of the specific charges in Castro's indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.

"The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war ... of being treated like an animal," it says.

The sentencing could take up to four hours, court officials said, with Castro, his attorneys, his victims and prosecutors getting a chance to speak. The legal team representing the women's interests declined to comment on whether they would testify or send statements to the court.

Prosecutors brought a model of the house where Castro, 53, imprisoned the women into the courtroom Thursday ahead of the sentencing.

In the court filing, McGinty offered new details of Castro's treatment of the women, who he said were kept "in a state of powerlessness" through physical, sexual and psychological violence.

"He made them believe that their physical survival depended on him, and he threatened to end their lives if they did not comply with his every demand," McGinty said.

Castro lured one of the women into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and tricked another by saying she could see his daughter, McGinty said.

He chained his captives by their ankles, fed them only one meal a day and provided plastic toilets in their bedrooms that were infrequently emptied, the filing said.

He menaced them with a gun, threatened them with tales of other captives, some of whom hadn't made it home, and at one point locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days while he had a visitor.

Castro claimed he didn't have an exit strategy from his complicated double life and finally gave the women a chance to escape by leaving a door unlocked, the court filing said.

The women, each kidnapped separately when they accepted a ride from Castro on Cleveland's blue-collar west side, quickly escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out the door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours. The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

There was no comment from Castro's defense team on the eve of sentencing.

Other horrific details of the women's ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement or a bedroom heater or inside a van, with one woman forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, having a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.

Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced the same woman on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to prohibit Castro from ever seeing his daughter, now 6.

McGinty says experts will also discuss how Castro was able to keep the women captive for so long.

Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house. Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

Knight, the first of three to disappear, also sent police a handwritten letter thanking them for their help collecting cards and gifts for the women.

In the note, Knight told Second District Cmdr. Keith Sulzer, "Life is tough, but I'm tougher!"

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Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus, Ohio.


Associated Press Release
By: THOMAS J. SHEERAN

CLEVELAND (AP) -- A Cleveland man has pleaded not guilty to holding three women captive in his home for a decade and raping them.

Fifty-two-year-old Ariel Castro was arraigned Wednesday on an indictment charging him with murder, kidnapping and rape in more than 300 counts.

The murder charge involves Castro's allegedly starving and punching a pregnant woman in captivity until she miscarried.

A Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County grand jury returned the indictment Friday against the former Cleveland school bus driver, who was fired last fall.

His $8 million dollar bond was continued.

A man accused of holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade was scheduled for his first court appearance Wednesday to answer to hundreds of charges, including rape and kidnapping.

Ariel Castro is charged with kidnapping the three women and keeping them -- sometimes restrained in chains -- along with a 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of them.

A grand jury charged Castro with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying he purposely caused the unlawful termination of one of the women's pregnancies. He also was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

Last week's 142-page indictment covers only the period from August 2002, when the first victim disappeared, to February 2007. Prosecutors say the investigation will continue and they are leaving the door open to pursuing a death penalty case against Castro.

News that the women had been found alive electrified the Cleveland area, where two of the victims were household names after years of searches, publicity and vigils. But elation soon turned to shock as allegations about their treatment began to emerge.

The indictment against Castro alleges he repeatedly restrained the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

Later, he moved them to upstairs rooms where they were kept as virtual prisoners, according to investigators.

All the while, Castro continued driving a school bus and playing bass in local bands, with fellow musicians saying they never suspected a thing. He was fired as a bus driver last fall after leaving his bus unattended for several hours.

Castro has been held on $8 million bail. Last week he was taken off suicide prevention watch in jail. Cuyahoga County jail logs show him spending most of his time sleeping, lying on his bunk, watching TV and occasionally drawing.

Castro was arrested May 6, shortly after one of the women broke through a door and yelled to neighbors for help.

She told a police dispatcher in a dramatic 911 call: "Help me. I'm Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

The women -- Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each said they had accepted a ride from Castro, who remained friends with DeJesus' family and even attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.

The women haven't spoken publicly since their rescue.

Berry, 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 and the two other women rescued with her had never been to a doctor during their captivity.

Knight, 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," authorities said.

She also said Castro forced her to deliver Berry's baby under threat of death if the baby died. She said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived her through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The picture of Castro as a friendly musician began to erode soon after the women were freed, as family members told of a man who terrorized his common-law wife, beating her and locking her in an apartment and the same house where the women were later kept.

Castro's two brothers were arrested the same day but were released at a hearing a few days later after it was determined they weren't aware of the activities of which their brother is accused. They denounced him in later interviews.

The Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the names of the three women were widely circulated by their families, friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their disappearances and after they were found.


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