Ariel Castro, 52, kept his eyes lowered and his chin tucked inside his collar as dozens of cameras flashed during a brief hearing in Cleveland Municipal Court. Castro, a former school bus driver, is charged with kidnapping Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and a 6-year-old girl to whom Berry gave birth while being held captive. Authorities say Castro repeatedly raped the three women.
Ariel Castro appears in a Cleveland courtroom for his arraignment on rape and kidnapping charges after three women missing for years were found in his home.
Judge Lauren Moore calculated bail at $2 million per victim, including the little girl. Court documents said Castro kidnapped the women by separately luring them into his car.
Officials said they may seek the death penalty in a case that has riveted — and repulsed — television viewers and social-media users across the nation. Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said Castro may be charged with aggravated murder because he allegedly impregnated the women and then forced them to suffer miscarriages, meaning he terminated the pregnancies by force.
Ohio law, McGinty said at a news conference, calls for the death penalty for the “most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping.’’
The women and the little girl were rescued Monday night after Berry, now 27, hailed a neighbor while her captor was out, kicked in part of the front door with his help and frantically called 911. Castro, a local musician who was a familiar presence in his heavily Latino neighborhood on Cleveland’s west side, lived in and owned the ramshackle house on Seymour Avenue where the women were found.
At the court hearing, Castro’s lawyer seemed to be asking for some leniency regarding bail, telling the judge that the defendant was a longtime Cleveland resident with no felony convictions and limited financial resources, living off an unemployment check.
But Brian Murphy, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor, asked for bond of $5 million, saying Castro put the women through a “horrifying ordeal” that included repeated sexual assaults and beatings, along with periods of being bound and restrained inside Castro’s home.
“They were never free to leave this residence,” Murphy said, calling the eight-room house “a prison for these three women.”
With Castro in bright-yellow handcuffs and the women reuniting with loved ones, he noted, the situation has been reversed.
A police report obtained by CNN and the New York Times revealed chilling details of the women’s prolonged captivity. The document said Knight told police that she had been impregnated several times during the ordeal but miscarried each time after Castro starved her for two weeks or more and then repeatedly punched her in the abdomen.