An Ohio prosecutor said Thursday he may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, saying the man accused of raping and imprisoning three women in his home forced them to suffer miscarriages.
Ariel Castro appears in Cleveland Municipal court (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
by Thomas Sheeran
CLEVELAND (AP) — An Ohio prosecutor said Thursday he may seek the death penalty against Ariel Castro, saying the man accused of raping and imprisoning three women in his home forced them to suffer miscarriages.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty said aggravated murder charges could be filed related to pregnancies terminated by force. And Ohio law calls for the death penalty for the “most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping,” McGinty said.
Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is being held on $8 million bail under a suicide watch in jail, where he is charged with rape and kidnapping for allegedly abducting three women and holding them captive in his home for a decade.
McGinty said that Castro would be charged for every single act of sexual violence, assault and other crimes committed against the women, suggesting the charges could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.
In court Thursday, authorities laid out more of their case against Castro, saying he lured the women into his car, beat them repeatedly over a decade and used them “in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit,” as prosecutor Brian Murphy put it.
During his brief arraignment, Castro tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his collar. He appeared to close his eyes during the hearing and awkwardly signed documents while handcuffed. He did not speak or enter a plea.
Kathleen DeMetz, a public defender assigned to represent him at the hearing, didn’t comment on his guilt or innocence or object when prosecutors recommended bail be set at $5 million. The judge, instead, ordered Castro held on $8 million.
Castro has been in custody since Monday, when Amanda Berry, who was 16 when she disappeared, broke out of his run-down house and called 911. Police found the two other women inside. The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Castro had lured each of them into his vehicle, according to court documents filed Thursday.
Investigators said that the women could recall being outside only twice in the past decade and that they were apparently bound with ropes and chains. Berry gave birth to a daughter, now 6, while in captivity.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported Thursday that Berry gave birth in an inflatable swimming pool. A police report obtained by the newspaper said Castro forced another of his alleged captives, Michelle Knight, to deliver the baby and threatened to kill her if the infant did not survive. The baby stopped breathing, and Knight resuscitated the child by mouth-to-mouth, the report said.
Berry, 27, and the third captive, Gina DeJesus, 22, went home with relatives on Wednesday. Knight, 32, was reported in good condition at a Cleveland hospital.
Castro’s two brothers, who were arrested but later cleared of involvement in the kidnapping case, appeared in court on unrelated charges and were released. They left the courthouse without speaking to reporters.
Pedro Castro, 54, pleaded no contest to an open container charge, while two charges against Onil Castro, 50, were dismissed.
On Thursday, a musician who often practiced at Ariel Castro’s house said he was there last week and heard noises, “like banging on the wall.” Ricky Sanchez said he asked Castro about it, and he blamed it on the dogs. He also said Castro — a bass guitarist in merengue and salsa bands — liked to play his music loud inside.
On his most recent visit, Sanchez said, a little girl came out from the kitchen and stared at him but didn’t say anything. He said he also noticed there were four or five locks on the outside door.
“When I was about to leave, I tried to open the door. I couldn’t even, because there were so many locks in there,” he said.
Ariel Castro’s adult daughter, Arlene Castro, appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” on Thursday. She tearfully said she was embarrassed and devastated upon learning of her father’s suspected role in the kidnappings. Arlene Castro was walking home from school with DeJesus in 2004 just before she disappeared.
“I would like to say I’m absolutely so, so sorry,” she said. “I really want to see you, Gina, and I want you to meet my kids. I’m so sorry about everything.”
Associated Press writers Mike Householder and freelance reporter John Coyne in Cleveland; and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.