Cleveland Kidnapping, Rape Suspect Appears In Court

11:27 AM, May 9, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: PHOTOS: Missing Women Found In Cleveland
Ariel Castro at Cleveland Municipal Court (Photo: Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND (USA TODAY) -- Ariel Castro, the 52-year-old former school bus driver who owned the Cleveland home where three women were held captive for almost a decade, was arraigned Thursday on charges of four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

Dressed in a dark blue jail uniform zipped to the top, Castro held his hands clasped below his waist throughout most of the proceedings, staring at the floor, even while exchanging words and a few nods with his attorney, public defender Kathleen DeMetz.

It was Castro's first court appearance since Amanda Berry's screams on Monday alerted neighbors, then the police, then the world to the nightmare she and two other victims -- Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- have endured at the hands of a sadistic captor in his west side house.

In a brief explanation of the charges, prosecutor Brian Murphy alleged that Castro had "snatched three young ladies from the streets" and forced them to endure a "horrifying ordeal for more than a decade."

He said the victims had been "bound, restrained and sexually assaulted."

"They were never free to leave this residence," he said, referring to Castro's home on Seymour Avenue.

Murphy noted that the girls disappeared suddenly almost 10 years ago, but re-emerged "thankfully and miraculously" three days ago.

As Castro continued to look down at his feet, Murphy noted that while the suspect was now being held by authorities "the women are free to resume their lives that was interrupted and also with the promise and the hope that justice will be served."

Cleveland Municipal Court judge Lauren Moore then set bail at $8 million. She said that if Castro, who is unemployed, should post the the bond, he is ordered to have "absolutely no contact with the victims or the victims' families."

Knight, now 32, remains in a Cleveland hospital. But Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, returned to their Cleveland homes earlier Wednesday for their first time in almost 10 years, where they were surrounded by family and friends.

The kidnapping charges include Barry's 6-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who was conceived and born in the house on the city's west side. DNA tests are being conducted to determine the child's father.

Castro two brothers, Pedro and Onil, who were arrested along with him on Monday, also appeared with him in court. But prosecutors say there is no evidence linking them to the abduction and rape case or suggesting they had any knowledge of it.

They were in court on unrelated misdemeanor charges, which were quickly dispatched. The court then order the two brothers to be released.

Even as prosecutors finalized formal charges, some grim details have emerged from an initial police report on what went on inside the house at 2207 Seymour Avenue on Cleveland's west side.

The victims have told investigators similar stories of being abducted by Castro after he offered them a ride home from school or work.

The report, obtained by Cleveland TV station WKYC, sketches the outlines of the victims' descent into hell. It is rife with details of beatings, chained confinement, starvation and death threats.

It alleges that Castro impregnated Knight five times, forced her to starve for weeks at a time and punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Castro, the report said, also forced Knight to deliver Berry's baby in a plastic kiddie pool and threatened to murder Knight if the newborn died.

As the victims settled into their sudden freedom, Nancy Ruiz, DeJesus' mother, thanked those who had helped the family over the past nine years.

"Even the ones that doubted, I want to thank them the most," she said. "They're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there."

Gina's aunt, Sandra Ruiz, called on friends, relatives and the media "to give us time and privacy to heal."

Contributing: Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY; Associated Press


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