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Ariel Castro Faces Kidnapping, Rape Charges In Cleveland


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm David Greene.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. This morning, Ariel Castro appeared in a Cleveland courtroom. He was charged in the kidnapping of three women and a little girl.

GREENE: Authorities say the 52-year-old bus driver held his captives for a decade and might still be holding today except that a neighbor helped one of the women escape. Two of the women and the child are now at home with family.

INSKEEP: A third woman remains in the hospital. And Castro is being held on $8 million bail. We're learning more about how police believe Castro did what he did.

NPR's Cheryl Corley has more.

CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: During Ariel's Castro's hearing today, he faced four counts of kidnapping and three of rape. Two of his brothers were arrested with him originally but won't face charges. Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba says there was nothing to tie them to this case; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

ED TOMBA: They were with their brother and it was an investigative stop. And as you know, early on you can only imagine the chaos and the relief that we had finding these three girls.

CORLEY: Ariel Castro stands accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight between 2002 and 2004, imprisoning them until Berry made a dramatic escape earlier this week.

The house is located on Seymour Street just across the bridge from downtown Cleveland. And late last night people who live in the area thought the charges against Castro aren't tough enough. Angela Garcia is a homemaker who pays a daily visit to a friend who lives across the street from Castro.

ANGELA GARCIA: I really think he should be charged with more, because they've been through a lot. Now these girls, they're going to be traumatized because all those years.

CORLEY: Wilborn Foster is a janitor who lives in the neighborhood too.

WILBORN FOSTER: Dude, he was straight evil. I mean he was wicked.

CORLEY: And Jim Reynolds is a letter carrier who doesn't live far from kidnap victim Amanda Berry's family home.

JIM REYNOLDS: I'm glad actually that they have charged him. But still, it's a very sad to hear what the poor ladies must have went through. It's just amazing that they survived.

CORLEY: In a police report seen by NPR, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight told the officers that Ariel Castro's approach was simple. Nearly 10 years ago he told then-14-year-old DeJesus he'd drop her off at his house so she could meet with his daughter, a fellow student. He lured Amanda Berry by telling her his son worked at the same restaurant she did. And he offered Michelle Knight a ride home. All three would end up chained in the basement of the house before living later on the second floor.

They were allegedly forced to have sex with Castro. One told police she became pregnant several times but Castro punched her in the stomach so she would miscarry. Amanda Berry did give birth to a daughter who is now six. Authorities say they'll perform a paternity test on the child to confirm that Castro is the father.

Cleveland's public safety director Marty Flask also says the women rarely went outside.

MARTY FLASK: In the last decade, they've only known themselves to be outside of the home on two separate occasions, and that was only briefly.

CORLEY: Yesterday, both Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus returned home to cheering crowds and big welcome home signs. DeJesus' aunt, Sarah Ruiz, spoke on her niece's behalf.

SARA RUIZ: There are not enough words to say or express the joy that feel for the return of our family member, Gina. And now, Amanda Berry, the daughter, and Michelle Knight, who is our family also.

CORLEY: Many Latinos live in the community where the kidnapping victims and their alleged captor live, and that struck a chord with prosecutor Victor Perez.

VICTOR PEREZ: As the chief prosecutor for the city of Cleveland, born and raised in Puerto Rico, I want everyone to know that the acts of the defendant in this criminal case are not a reflection of the rest of the Puerto Rican community here or in Puerto Rico.

CORLEY: One of Ariel Castro's cousins echoed that sentiment during an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. Maria Castro Montes also apologized to the kidnap victims.

MARIA CASTRO MONTES: I want to say to Gina and to Amanda and to Michelle, we are horribly sorry for what the three of you went through and at the hands of someone who is a family member.

CORLEY: Today's hearing transferred that family member's case to the county courts. Cleveland officials say its likely Ariel Castro will face many more charges than the seven counts of kidnapping and rape that he does now.

Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Cheryl Corley is a Chicago-based NPR correspondent who works for the National Desk. She primarily covers criminal justice issues as well as breaking news in the Midwest and across the country.
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