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Three Women, Missing for Years, Found in Cleveland Home

Three women who went missing in separate cases have been found together Monday in Cleveland, Ohio, police said.

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Ariel Castro speaks at sentencing hearingCLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

An investigation into the prison cell suicide of Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro found that he may have died by accident last month because of “auto-erotic asphyxiation.”

The probe also found that two prison guards didn’t perform required rounds at the facility and falsified records.

Castro was found in his cell with a Bible open to John Chapters 2 and 3 and “had pictures of his family out and arranged in a poster-board fashion,” according to a report released Thursday by the state Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

“He was hanging from a hinge in the window of his cell by a sheet wrapped around his neck. His pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles. The relevance of this finding is unclear. These facts, however, were relayed to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for consideration of the possibility of auto-erotic asphyxiation,” the report said.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation involves depriving the brain of oxygen by controlled strangulation to intensify a sexual experience.

The department said “there appears to be no known, substantiated motivation for the self-inflicted death.”

Officials “reviewed several sources of information in an attempt to determine the motivation” for the suicide since “Castro left no suicide note and had previously shown no suicidal ideations in multiple levels of assessment.”

Also, the agency said, two prison guards responsible for checking on him “did not timely perform” required rounds, the department said. They appeared to have also falsified “the post log book for their rounds.”

The information was disclosed in an “after-action review report” issued by the department.

Castro, who was held at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, was found hanged with a bed sheet in his cell September 3. Prison medical staff tried to revive him.

The guards were placed on leave as investigators looked into Castro’s suicide. Any disciplinary action, which could include termination of employment, will be determined by the Ohio State Highway Patrol at the conclusion of its investigation.

Castro pleaded guilty in August to 937 counts, including the kidnapping of Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry. He held the women for roughly 10 years in his home. Castro was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years.

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Ariel Castro speaks at sentencing hearingCLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years for kidnapping and raping three women, as well as murder, committed suicide in his prison cell Tuesday night, the Franklin County, Ohio, coroner’s office said.

Castro hanged himself with a bedsheet, Coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak told CNN Wednesday.

Authorities found Castro, 52, hanged in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, about 9:20 p.m., the state’s Department of Corrections said.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.

Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had tough words in the wake of Castro’s suicide.

“These degenerate molesters are cowards,” Timothy J. McGinty said. “… This man couldn’t take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade.”

Castro’s brother-in-law, Juan Alicea, told CNN that the family was notified by the warden about 1 a.m. The family is angry, he said, that it first learned about the death from media reports.

Alicea said that Castro’s mother and sister visited him twice in prison, most recently on August 26.

During that last visit, both women said they were worried by his demeanor, mood and body language; he appeared depressed, Alicea said.

But nothing indicated that Castro was contemplating suicide, Alicea said, recounting what the women told him. In fact, he said, the final letter that Castro’s mother received from the inmate was more upbeat.

Another family member, Maria Castro-Montes, said she cried when she heard the news.

Her first thoughts were with the three victims — Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry — and what they must be feeling. Would they be glad or angry about Castro’s death?

The three women held captive by Castro are aware of his suicide, Knight’s attorney, Kathryn Joseph, told CNN. She said the women will not be making a statement.

Castro-Montes said nearly everyone in the family had cut ties with Castro, and relatives hope that with his death, the tragic story can come to an end.

“It was just shock and part of it was even relief in hopes that now this will just end all of it and that his name will not be out in the spotlight for years and years to come,” she told CNN. “I just hope the victims can move past this now.”

Castro was not a part of the general prison population, officials said.

“He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals,” JoEllen Smith of the corrections department told CNN in a written statement.

“A thorough review of this incident is under way,” she added.

But Castro attorney Craig Weintraub said more precautions against a possible suicide should have been taken.

Castro’s attorneys had requested permission for an independent forensic psychologist to evaluate their client, but were denied by officials, he said.

If Castro was believed to be suicidal, he should have been under stricter protection, he said.

Some will see his death as “a happy ending to this story, and a quick ending and justifiable,” Weintraub said. “But we’re in a civilized society and no one should really be celebrating this.”

No place in the world

In handing down a sentence last month, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, DNA tests confirmed.

‘You will die a little every day’

All three women kept diaries with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.

“I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” Knight, 32, said, as she addressed her abductor head-on during his sentencing. “I will live on. You will die a little every day.”

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents. The women and girl were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

Neighbors heard her cries and came to her aid as she tried to break through a door. One neighbor gave her a cell phone to call authorities.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Plays the victim, blames the victims

During his sentencing, Castro played the victim, saying he was addicted to porn and masturbation. In his oft-disjointed statement, he referred to himself as “very emotional” and “a happy person inside.”

Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.

Burke also described a handwritten letter in which Castro claimed he had been sexually abused as a child and wrote, “I am a sexual predator.”

‘You saved us’

The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

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Ariel Castro speaks at sentencing hearing

Castro speaking at his sentencing hearing. Courtesy: CNN

(CNN) — Ariel Castro who was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years for kidnapping, raping and holding captive three women was found hanging in his prison cell Tuesday night.

Officials found Castro, 52, hanging in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, about 9:20 p.m., the state’s Department of Corrections said.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.

Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

Castro’s brother-in-law, Juan Alicea, told CNN that the family was aware of the media reports. But it has not been contacted by the corrections department.

Castro was not a part of the general prison population, officials said.

“He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals,” JoEllen Smith of the corrections department told CNN in a statement.

“A thorough review of this incident is underway,” she added.

No place in the world

In handing down a sentence last month, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Knight, abducted in 2002; Georgina DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.

‘You will die a little every day’

All three women kept diaries with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.

“I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” Knight, 32, said, as she addressed her abductor head-on during his sentencing. “I will live on. You will die a little every day.”

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents. The women and girl were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

Neighbors heard her cries and came to her aid as she tried to break through a door. One neighbor gave her a cell phone to call authorities.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Plays the victim, blames the victims

During his sentencing, Castro played the victim, saying he was addicted to porn and masturbation. In his oft-disjointed statement, he referred to himself as “very emotional” and “a happy person inside.”

Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of them home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.

Burke also described a handwritten letter in which Castro claimed he had been sexually abused as a child and wrote, “I am a sexual predator.”

‘You saved us’

The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

 

From Dave Alsup. The-CNN-Wire
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Ariel Castro's House Demolition

Workers began tearing down Ariel Castro’s house of horrors where he held three women captive for years on Wednesday, August 7, 2013. (CNN)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

Just before the Cleveland house where she’d been held captive for a decade was to be torn down, Michelle Knight celebrated by handing out and releasing yellow balloons.

Knight was on hand Wednesday morning as workers began tearing down the house of horrors where Ariel Castro held Knight and two other women for years.

“I want the people out there to know, including (abductees’) mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope. And their child will come back,” she told reporters outside the house.

Castro forfeited the house on Seymour Avenue as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that took the death penalty off the table in exchange for a life sentence, plus 1,000 years in prison.

Demolition began around 7:30 a.m. as an aunt of another former Castro captive, Georgina DeJesus, made the first hit on the house, operating a hydraulic excavator with assistance.

Before the demolition, Knight gave out yellow helium-filled balloons to people gathered in the neighborhood. Then, standing not far from the house where she lived an 11-year nightmare, she led a group in releasing the balloons, which she said represented abducted children who were never found.

“I go from here as being a motivational speaker and let everybody know that they are heard, that they are loved, and that there is hope for everyone,” she said.

The goal is the tear the house down and get the property filled in, graded and seeded in a single day, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is supervising the demolition.

Castro’s friends and family removed personal items from the home Monday, including musical instruments and photographs. Police said most of the items removed Monday were personal items left over after investigators collected evidence.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.

Berry also visited the house, collecting pictures drawn by her daughter.

Berry and her daughter escaped from the home with the help of a neighbor on May 6, calling police in her now famous 911 call: “Help me, I am Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now.”

Castro reconfigured the 1,400-square-foot home to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified during the sentencing. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home, and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the three hostage.

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Ariel Castro speaks at sentencing hearing

Ariel Castro in court Aug. 1

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

Though the lengthy sentencing process is still ongoing, Judge Michael Russo has already sentenced kidnapper Ariel Castro to hundreds of years in prison, mostly in eight- to 10-year consecutive blocks.

Russo said Castro “will never be released from incarceration during the period of his remaining natural life for any reason.”

Ariel Castro took issue with the aggravated murder charge related to the allegation that his abuse terminated the pregnancy of one of his victims, saying there was no evidence the incident occurred. Judge Michael Russo reminded him that he pleaded guilty, and Castro said he did so only to save his victims further psychological trauma.

Judge Michael Russo said children of Ariel Castro were acquainted with the kidnap victims and that was a factor in Castro’s abduction “strategy.”

“That was your entree,” he told Castro.

Noting that Ariel Castro had an “outwardly” normal relationship with a girlfriend, Russo told the kidnapper during his sentencing hearing it’s clear “you are able to choose who you wish to victimize.”

“In your mind, there was harmony and a happy household,” Russo said. “I’m not sure there’s anyone else in America who would agree with you.”

He called Castro’s behavior “anti-social personality disorder” and told him “you have extreme narcissism and it seems rather pervasive.”

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Ariel Castro new mug shot

Ariel Castro’s booking photo. (Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

Ariel Castro agreed Friday in an Ohio courtroom to a plea deal in one of the most sensational kidnapping cases in recent memory. The deal, reached with prosecutors, would let him avoid the possibility of a death sentence and spare his alleged victims from having to testify at a trial.

The plea deal recommends that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole — that he never get a parole hearing. It would also mean that a trial Castro was facing on August 5 would not happen and he would not face the possibility of being sentenced to death. Judge Michael J. Russo went over the deal with Castro, and told him that he would be labeled as a sexual predator.

Castro replied that he understood. At one point, he interjected that he was “also a victim as a child” to which Russo responded that he could make whatever statement he wanted during the sentencing hearing. Russo also said that victims would be notified of the hearing and also would then have a chance to say what they liked.

Russo went through charges Castro faces relating to the allegations he held three women captive for a decade and asked him how he pleaded.

Over and over, Castro replied: “Guilty.”

At another moment in the hearing, which lasted well over an hour, the judge asked Castro how good his English is.

Castro replied that he is good at spelling and reading but his comprehension is bad because “my addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.”

An attorney for three women had told CNN that they were hoping for a plea deal because they did not want to take the stand at Castro’s trial.

A law firm representing Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, issued a statement after Castro agreed to a plea.

“Amanda, Gina, and Michelle are relieved by today’s plea,” according to Jones Day. “They are satisfied by this resolution to the case, and are looking forward to having these legal proceedings draw to a final close in the near future.”

The women want to remain private and don’t want to speak to media or others, the statement said, but they’re grateful for the support they’ve received from family and friends and the Cleveland Courage Fund, which has helped raise money for them.

With help, women freed

Castro’s defense attorneys had previously said they wanted a deal that would take capital punishment out of the equation.

Castro was charged with 977 counts, including aggravated murder on suspicion of ending the pregnancy of one of his alleged captives. Under the deal, he agreed to plead guilty to 937 counts.

Russo told Castro that the deal would mean he would go to prison for life, plus at least 1,000 years.

Earlier this month, the former bus driver had pleaded not guilty to the 977 charges. He was being held on $8 million bail.

At the close of Friday’s hearing, Russo remanded Castro back into custody, and set a sentencing date for August 1.

Castro abducted Knight, Berry and DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002, according to authorities.

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter — DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the child’s father — were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.

The cries for help were heard by neighbor Charles Ramsey, who was sitting down to eat.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS. “I go on the porch and she says, ‘help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’”

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she told police in a frantic 911 call from a neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Under the plea deal, the house where the women were confined will be demolished, Russo said.

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland in 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday.

DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, in April 2004. She was 14.

Knight vanished in 2002, at age 21, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

Ariel Catsro Arraigned in Cleveland

Ariel Castro, accused of keeping three women and one of their daughters captive for years in his Cleveland home, at his arraignment back in May. Courtesy: CNN

(CNN) — A grand jury has issued a fresh indictment charging Ariel Castro with 977 counts relating to allegations that he held three women captive for about a decade in his Cleveland home, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office said Friday.

The new indictment — which adds 648 counts to the 329 on which he was indicted last month — encompasses all the years of the women’s captivity, whereas the previous indictment covered only the first four and a half years, the prosecutor’s office said.

Authorities said Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002.

The women, as well as Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, who authorities say was fathered by Castro, were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home.

Among the charges are two counts of aggravated murder, in which Castro is accused of intentionally causing the termination of a pregnancy.

Castro also faces 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.

He will be arraigned July 17.

 

CNN”s Rob Frehse and Jason Hanna contributed to this report. The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/+1-404-827-WIRE(9473)
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CLEVELAND-

Three women who were held captive in Cleveland for 10 years said their thanks in a video posted to YouTube Monday night.

Featured in the video are kidnapping victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, as well as DeJesus’ parents.

Knight disappeared in 2002 at the age of 21, Berry went missing in 2003 at the age of 16 and DeJesus disappeared the following year at the age of 14. DeJesus gave birth to a girl in 2006.

The three women and DeJesus’ daughter were found in the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro. Castro now faces kidnapping and rape charges.

Ariel Castro new mug shot

Ariel Castro’s booking photo. (Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (CNN)-

An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Lawyers at an arraignment for Ariel Castro, 52, entered the plea on their client’s behalf at his brief arraignment in a Cleveland courtroom after he was indicted last week on 329 counts.

Castro wore an orange jumpsuit, kept his head bowed and didn’t speak. His attorneys told CNN affiliate WKYC in a recent exclusive interview that he had intended to make that plea.

“I know the media wants to jump to conclusions and all the people in the community want to say terrible things about the person who’s accused,” attorney Jaye Schlachet told the network.

“We are not even at the beginning of the process. If this was a marathon race, we’re not even at the starting line yet.”

Castro’s case has attracted national attention because of the unusual length and depravity of the alleged crimes.

“The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty.

Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

One of the young women he’s accused of holding was impregnated five times by Castro, and another bore a child fathered by him, according to police.

The indictment also charges Castro with 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, McGinty said in a statement last week.

The charges cover only half of the 10 years the three women were held captive — from August 2002, when the first of the three disappeared off a Cleveland street, to February 2007.

The women were freed last month after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from his 1,400-square-foot home.

The prosecutor’s capital review committee will consider whether the case is appropriate for seeking the death penalty once the indictment process is complete, the prosecutor’s statement said.

The three woman held have been identified as Michelle Knight, abducted at age 21 in August 2002; Amanda Berry, kidnapped at age 16 in April 2003 and who has a 6-year-old daughter by Castro; and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, who was 14 when she disappeared in 2004.

Lawyers for the women expressed confidence and satisfaction after the indictment came down last week.

“We have a great legal system, plus confidence and faith in the prosecutor’s office and its decisions. Now, we need to stand back and let the judicial process unfold,” said attorneys Jim Wooley and Kathy Joseph.

In a ghoulish twist, DeJesus actually knew Ariel Castro, her family told CNN affiliate WOIO.

She was a good friend of Castro’s daughter, Arlene.

One year after DeJesus’ appearance, Arlene Castro publicly crusaded to find her friend’s kidnapper. She went on the national television program “America’s Most Wanted” to plead for help in finding her friend in spring 2005.

Ariel Castro attended at least two public vigils for the missing girls — while they were allegedly inside his home — relatives told WOIO.

Castro, a former school bus driver, remains in a Cleveland jail on $8 million bond.

He made a brief court appearance soon after his arrest.

Handcuffed and wearing a blue jumpsuit, he looked down through that hearing. Castro did not speak.

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