Three girls were kidnapped from 2002 to 2004 and were held until escaping in 2013. Each woman was kidnapped after accepting a ride from Castro. Castro drove each to his home, lured her inside, took her to the basement and restrained her. The Seymour Avenue house where they were held was approximately 3 miles (5 km) from where they had disappeared, in Cleveland’s residential Tremont neighborhood. The first victim Michelle Knight was disappeared on August 23, 2002 at the age of 21. The second victim Amanda Berry disappeared on April 21, 2003 the day before her 17th birthday. Berry was considered to be a runaway until her mother received a phone call from an unknown male voice off of Berry’s cell phone. “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days”. On December 25, 2006, Berry gave birth to a daughter inside the house where the girls were imprisoned.
The third victim Georgina “Gina” Lynn Dejesus disappeared on April 2, 2004 at the age of 14. She was friends with Castro’s daughter. No one witnessed her abduction so there was no amber alert issued. The women were kept in locked upstairs bedrooms, where they were forced to use plastic toilets that were “emptied infrequently”. They were fed one meal a day, and allowed to shower at most twice a week. Knight was impregnated at least five times which Castro induced miscarriages through beatings with: hitting her with dumbells, punching’s and throwing her against the wall. He also used starvation.
The Cleveland abduction is notorious because it had huge media coverage worldwide. There was also a documentary made about it. The survivors have spoken out about their experiences during their 11 years in captivity.
On May 6th, 2013 Castro left the house without locking the “big inside door” and only bolting the storm door. Berry noticed and started screaming through the screen to get someone’s attention. One of the neighbours came and found Berry’s daughter and herself they kicked a hole in the screen to get out. Amanda Berry went to a house and dialed 911 she was reported saying “Help me, I’m Amanda Berry … I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now”. Police responding and they found the other two girls in the upstairs. The girls were then all taken to a hospital. Ariel Castro was arrested and charged later that day with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. All three women gave a statement during the trial stating what Castro had done to them. DNA evidence also confirmed that Castro was the biological father of Berry’s child.
Ariel Castro has a theme of wanting power and control over his victims. By the victims being adolescents when they were kidnapped and then enslaved by Castro. This shows signs of pedophilia but more so of power and control. He also said he felt he needed to commit these acts because of his addiction to sex and pornography.
On May 9th Castro made his first court appearance in Cleveland Municipal court where his bail was set at 2 million per kidnapping charge. On May 14th Castro’s attorneys pled not guilty to all charges. On June 7th a grand jury returned a bill from August 2002 to February 2007 containing 329 counts against Castro. On July 12 the grand jury returned a bill for the remainder after February 2007. This made the total 977 counts: 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 of rape, seven of gross sexual imposition, six of felonious assault, three of child endangerment, two of aggravated murder, and one of possession of criminal tools. Castro continued to plead not guilty on July 17. But later on July 26, 2013 Castro pleaded guilty to 937 of the 977 charges against him, including charges of kidnapping, rape, and aggravated murder, as part of a plea bargain which called for consecutive sentences of life in prison plus 1,000 years, both without parole. On August 1st, 2013 Castro was sentenced to life in prison, plus 1,000 years. The court forfeited his property and assets to Cuyahoga County government. Knight told Castro, “You took 11 years of my life away. I spent 11 years in hell, now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that has happened, but you will face hell for eternity. I will live on, you will die a little every day as you think of the 11 years of atrocities that you inflicted on us…I can forgive you, but I will never forget”.
On September 3rd, 2013 Ariel Castro committed suicide one month into his life sentence in prison. Castro was found hanging by bedsheets in his cell. The prison staff tried to revive him but he was later pronounced dead.
Some facts about their time spent in captivity. Knight was forced to deliver Berry’s baby in a plastic kiddie pool. Castro threatened Knight that if the baby died so would she. In the police report she said that the baby did stop breathing for a few minutes and gave the baby mouth to mouth and “breathed for her” to save both their lives. People wonder how he kept them hidden for 11 years. When he first kidnapped them he chained them up downstairs. But as time went on he let them live free on the second floor they were kept in separate rooms. The women only remember leaving the house twice in the 11 years they were there. The woman told police that they only left to the garage and even still he made them where hats, wigs, and keep their head down. Castro also celebrated “Abduction Day” every year on the day they were kidnapped. He would make them a special supper and serve them cake. He used this as their birthdays. He also allowed them to watch tv especially when their families held vigils in their honour.