Story Summary

Ohio teens found after missing 10 years

Three long-missing women — Amanda Berry, 27; Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32 — and a 6-year-old daughter apparently born to Berry in captivity were found alive in Cleveland, Ohio, police said. The women are believed to have been abducted years ago — in 2002, 2003 and 2004 — and held captive at a man’s home, according to police.

Three suspects, all brothers, including the home’s main resident, Ariel Castro, 52, were arrested.

Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. His brothers were not charged in the case.

 

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By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN
Six months after she was freed from the “house of horrors” where Ariel Castro held her captive for 11 years, Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight is speaking out.In an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil McGraw scheduled to air Tuesday and Wednesday, Knight describes a moment when Castro trapped her in a room and tied her up with an orange extension cord.”I was tied up like a fish,” she said, “an ornament on the wall.”
michelleknight

An excerpt released by the “Dr. Phil” syndicated talk show Monday shows Knight sitting cross-legged on a couch and drawing a U-shape in the air with one finger as she describes how Castro hung her by her feet, neck and arms.

Knight also says Castro taped her mouth shut with duct tape, according to another excerpt posted on the show’s YouTube channel. And she tells McGraw she once picked a lock to try to escape, drawing an ominous warning from Castro: “Now you’re gonna be punished.”

Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were freed from Castro’s Cleveland home in May, drawing national attention to the horrific case.

The dramatic rescue came after neighbors heard Berry’s cries and broke down a door.

“It’s astounding to me that she had the strength that she did,” McGraw told “Anderson Cooper 360.” “She says that she was referred to as the unbreakable one. She fought him every step of the way.”

McGraw said Knight was chained around the neck and waist with a motorcycle helmet on her head. She was left there for days at a time, Mcgraw said, adding that Knight told him she couldn’t lie down because the chain was too short. So she would just lean and wait until she passed out from fatigue.

Knight told McGraw, though, that she didn’t always fight back, at least not at first.

She said she was in shock after being taken and all she could do was cry and beg him to let her go back to her son.

He threw money at her.

“He was obsessed with prostitutes and also he thought I was a 13-year-old prostitute,” she said in the interview. “When he found out my real age he got mad.”

Knight, 32, was 21 years old when she was reported missing in 2002.

In August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He committed suicide in his prison cell in September.

Before the women’s rescue, Knight’s disappearance generated less publicity and attention than the kidnappings of Berry and DeJesus, and a level of mystery still surrounds her case.

But since their rescue, Knight hasn’t shied away from speaking out.

“After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it’s liberating,” she said in a powerful statement at Castro’s sentencing describing the abuse she endured.

“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning,” she told Castro. “I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”

When crews demolished the 1,400-square-foot house where Castro held them captive, Knight was there, handing out yellow balloons to onlookers.

She said she was at the demolition site in part to remind relatives of abducted children that all is not necessarily lost.

“I want the people out there to know — including the mothers — that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back,” she said.

Since their release, accounts have depicted Knight as someone who cared for the other victims during their captivity while also enduring great suffering herself.

A family friend of one of the victims said this year that Castro used Knight as his main “punching bag.”

The friend said Castro hit Knight with a variety of objects, including hand weights. She has suffered vision loss, joint and muscle damage, and other problems from her time in captivity.

According to an initial incident report obtained by CNN, Knight said she became pregnant at least five times while in Castro’s home.

When that happened, she told investigators, Castro “starved her for at least two weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried.”

Knight said Castro ordered her to deliver Berry’s child, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.

“What’s most incredible here is that this girl who knows nothing about childbirth was able to deliver a baby that is now a healthy 6-year-old,” a police source said.

CNN’s Martin Savidge, Pamela Brown and Chelsea J. Carter contributed to this report.

He was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for a heinous crime, but in the end he cut that life short.

Ariel Castro, convicted of kidnapping and raping three women, as well as murder, committed suicide in his prison cell Tuesday night, the Franklin County, Ohio, coroner’s office said.

The discovery of the three women who had been Castro’s captives in his Cleveland home for about a decade was shocking from the outset, and surprising in its end.

Castro, 52, hanged himself with a bedsheet, Coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak told CNN on Wednesday. He was being held at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.

Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had tough words in the wake of Castro’s suicide.

“These degenerate molesters are cowards,” Timothy J. McGinty said. “… This man couldn’t take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade.”

Castro’s brother-in-law, Juan Alicea, told CNN that the family was notified by the warden about 1 a.m. The family is angry, he said, that it first learned about the death from media reports.

Alicea said that Castro’s mother and sister visited him twice in prison, most recently on August 26.

During that last visit, both women said they were worried by his demeanor, mood and body language; he appeared depressed, Alicea said.

But nothing indicated that Castro was contemplating suicide, Alicea said, recounting what the women told him. In fact, he said, the final letter that Castro’s mother received from the inmate was more upbeat.

Another family member, Maria Castro-Montes, said she cried when she heard the news.

Her first thoughts were with the three victims — Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry — and what they must be feeling. Would they be glad or angry about Castro’s death?

The three women held captive by Castro are aware of his suicide, Knight’s attorney, Kathryn Joseph, told CNN. She said the women will not be making a statement.

Castro-Montes said nearly everyone in the family had cut ties with Castro, and relatives hope that with his death, the tragic story can come to an end.

“It was just shock and part of it was even relief in hopes that now this will just end all of it and that his name will not be out in the spotlight for years and years to come,” she told CNN. “I just hope the victims can move past this now.”

‘No one should be celebrating’

Castro was not a part of the general prison population, officials said.

“He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals,” JoEllen Smith of the corrections department told CNN in a written statement.

“A thorough review of this incident is under way,” she added.

At least two investigations will be done, according to another corrections department statement.

The prison director commissioned a review team, to be made up of legal, medical, mental health, security and operational professionals not directly involved in the incident, to analyze Castro’s death.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol will conduct a separate, independent investigation.

But Castro attorney Craig Weintraub said more precautions against a possible suicide should have been taken.

Castro’s attorneys had requested permission for an independent forensic psychologist to evaluate their client, but were denied by officials, he said.

If Castro was believed to be suicidal, he should have been under stricter protection, he said.

Some will see his death as “a happy ending to this story, and a quick ending and justifiable,” Weintraub said. “But we’re in a civilized society and no one should really be celebrating this.”

No place in the world

In handing down a sentence last month, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table.

The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, DNA tests confirmed.

‘You will die a little every day’

All three women kept diaries with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.

“I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” Knight, 32, said, as she addressed her abductor head-on during his sentencing. “I will live on. You will die a little every day.”

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents. The women and girl were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

castroNeighbors heard her cries and came to her aid as she tried to break through a door. One neighbor gave her a cell phone to call authorities.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Plays the victim, blames the victims

During his sentencing, Castro played the victim, saying he was addicted to porn and masturbation. In his oft-disjointed statement, he referred to himself as “very emotional” and “a happy person inside.”

Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.

Burke also described a handwritten letter in which Castro claimed he had been sexually abused as a child and wrote, “I am a sexual predator.”

‘You saved us’

The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

castrohomedemo

From Ed Payne and Martin Savidge, CNN

The house of horrors where Ariel Castro held three women captive for a decade will crumble to pieces Wednesday as workers demolish the Cleveland home.

Castro forfeited the house on Seymour Avenue as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that took the death penalty off the table in exchange for a life sentence, plus 1,000 years in prison.

The goal is the tear the house down and get the property filled in, graded and seeded in a single day, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is supervising the demolition.

Castro’s friends and family removed personal items from the home Monday, including musical instruments and photographs. Police said most of the items removed Monday were personal items left over after investigators collected evidence.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Michelle Knight, abducted in 2002; Georgina DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.

Berry also visited the house, collecting pictures drawn by her daughter.

Berry and her daughter escaped from the home with the help of a neighbor on May 6, calling police in her now famous 911 call: “Help me, I am Amanda Berry. I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now.”

Castro reconfigured the 1,400-square-foot home to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified during the sentencing. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home, and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the three hostage.

 TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

When her chance came, kidnapping victim Michelle Knight lit into Ariel Castro, the man who held her captive and raped her in his Cleveland home for a decade.

“You took 11 years of my life away,” she said. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now, your hell is just beginning.”

In handing down a sentence of life without parole plus 1,000 years in prison, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.

“You don’t deserve to be out in our community,” Russo told the defendant. “You’re too dangerous.”

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Knight, abducted in 2002; Georgina DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old girl, DNA tests have confirmed.

All three women kept diaries with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.

Berry and DeJesus, who did not attend the hearing, sent representatives to issue impact statements on their behalves, while Knight chose to address her abductor head-on.Ohio kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro to be sentenced

“I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” she said, promising to overcome the experience. “I will live on. You will die a little every day.”

She said her friendship with DeJesus was the only positive element of her years in captivity and expressed gratitude that her “teammate” was there to save her when she was “dying from his abuse.”

In a pre-sentencing evaluation, Dr. Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in trauma science wrote that Knight suffered “the longest and most severely.”

 

“It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth (of Berry’s child). She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” he wrote. “At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”

‘Happy household’

Despite his repeated insistence that he wasn’t making excuses for his conduct, Castro played the victim, saying he was addicted to porn and masturbation. In his oft-disjointed statement, he referred to himself as “very emotional” and “a happy person inside.”

He appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted to have sex with him and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”

Castro even claimed that no one cared enough about Knight to search for her after she disappeared.

“I’m not a monster. I’m just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction,” he said. “God as my witness, I never beat these women like they’re trying to say that I did. I never tortured them.”

When Castro finished, Russo dubbed him a “violent sexual predator” and thanked Knight for showing “remarkable restraint” during the hearing.

Wearing eyeglasses and an orange prison uniform, the shackled Castro characterized his crimes in a far gentler light than did the book-length indictment handed down against him: “I’m not a violent person. I simply kept them there so they couldn’t leave.”

Testimony from authorities and mental health experts didn’t jibe with Castro’s recollection, however. Police recalled how the women were forced to play Russian roulette and how Castro would throw money at them after raping them.

Det. David Jacobs of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office testified he’d also show a gun “to the girls as a form of control.”

It was all to “purely satisfy his sexual needs,” Jacobs said. ” ‘I knew what I did was wrong.’ He said that more than once.”

His 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of the home, a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the room where Castro held the women and girl hostage.

In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.

Burke also described a handwritten letter in which Castro claimed he had been sexually abused as a child and wrote, “I am a sexual predator.”

‘You saved us!’

The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.

When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

Several witnesses said the women told them stories of being physically abused and deprived of food. Det. Andrew Harasimchuk told the judge the women were raped “vaginally, orally and anally” during their captivity.

Multiple officers testified that Castro appeared to show no remorse for his crimes, and prosecutor Anna Faraglia said he “tormented” his victims by allowing them to watch vigils held in their honor and even attended some.

Castro would talk to his victims’ parents as if he were distraught by their disappearances when “they were right underneath his roof,” she said.

Outlining the emotional toll their captivity took on them, Ochberg said the women will be subjected to life sentences of their own. When they were abducted, the women were all of the age at which humans are learning to be intimate in life, he said.

“This was not real intimacy. This was a perversion of intimacy,” Ochberg said, further describing the women’s survival and coping skills as “marvelous, compelling examples of resilience, of imagination, of humanity.”

Ochberg’s evaluation — using statements, medical records, videotaped interviews and transcripts — painted a horrifying picture of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Castro, including brutal beatings and repeated rapes that resulted in pregnancies that he would terminate by punching the women in the stomach.

“He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,” Ochberg wrote before sentencing.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Saathoff testified in court that the women’s ordeal was a “complete and comprehensive captivity” and said when he first learned of Castro’s crimes, he was compelled to write, “The scope and magnitude of Ariel Castro’s crimes is unprecedented.”

Asked if he felt Castro suffered from mental illness — something the defendant repeatedly asserted during his statement — Saathoff was firm in saying that an examination showed Castro suffered from “no psychiatric illness whatsoever.”

‘Thank you, victims’

In addition to Judge Russo’s guarantee that he “will never be released from incarceration during the period of his remaining natural life for any reason,” Castro was also hit with a forfeiture of property and fined $100,000.

As the judge sentenced him, Castro took issue with the aggravated murder charge related to the termination of his victims’ pregnancies, saying there was no evidence those incidents occurred. Russo reminded him that he had already pleaded guilty, and Castro said he did so only to save his victims further trauma.

“In your mind, there was harmony and a happy household,” Russo said. “I’m not sure there’s anyone else in America who would agree with you.”

As the hearing came to a close, Castro turned around in the court and glanced at family members of the victims.

“Thank you victims. Please find it in your heart to forgive me,” he said.

In each case, according to court documents, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride. The women and girl were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away. A neighbor heard her cries and let Berry use his phone to call police.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now.”

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed. They have not faced their captor and tormentor since their rescue.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”
TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Ariel Castro faces sentencing for kidnapping, raping and starving three young women for more than a decade in his Ohio home

They were forced to play Russian roulette. He threw money at them after sex. He reconfigured his entire home to keep their whereabouts a secret.

And it was all to “purely satisfy his sexual needs,” Det. David Jacobs of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office testified Thursday during the sentencing hearing for Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro.

Castro’s victims were subjected to a “complete and comprehensive captivity,” forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Saathoff said during the Cleveland kidnapper’s sentencing hearing.

Saathoff initially wrote upon learning of the kidnappings, “The scope and magnitude of Ariel Castro’s crimes is unprecedented,” but he said that an examination of the defendant showed “no psychiatric illness whatsoever.”

Already in the testimony, witnesses have recounted Castro forcing the girls to play Russian roulette, throwing money at them after sexually abusing them, his admission that he’s a “criminal” and “sexual predator” and the measures he took to keep the women’s whereabouts a secret.

Explaining how women the age of Castro’s victims typically are learning how to be intimate in life, psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in trauma science, described the mental damage the women suffered.

Ariel Castro tries to apologize during sentencing but is cut short

Ariel Castro tries to apologize during sentencing but is cut short. Photo courtesy of CNN

“This was not real intimacy. This was a perversion of intimacy,” Ochberg said, further describing the women’s survival and coping skills as “marvelous, compelling examples of resilience, of imagination, of humanity.”

While Castro faces the possibility of spending the rest of his days in prison, Ochberg said the women will experience “life sentences” themselves and the horrific memories are not going away.

Testimony kicked off with Barbara Johnson, the Cleveland police officer who first responded to kidnapper Ariel Castro’s home. She recalled finding Michelle Knight and Georgina DeJesus after hearing the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room.

Knight “literally launched herself” into another officer’s arms,” Johnson said, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ “

Johnson said the kidnapping victims were scared, pale, talkative and didn’t want to be left alone.

After the women were rescued in May, Castro was quick to tell police that his brothers had no involvement in the kidnappings and it was in that context that he told authorities, “I’m a criminal,” but he showed no remorse at that time, said .

” ‘I knew what I did was wrong.’ He said that more than once,” Jacobs said, explaining how Castro cooperated with police.

Castro had a gun in the home that he told Jacobs he would “show to the girls as a form of control.” Asked if he had ever forced the girls to play Russian roulette, Castro told Jacobs that he didn’t remember it, “but if the girls said it, it probably happened.”

FBI agent Andrew Burke said he had been familiar with DeJesus’ and Amanda Berry’s disappearances prior to their discovery earlier this year. Asked if he remembered the moment he saw them, Burke recalled first laying eyes on the three adult victims and Berry’s daughter in an ambulance outside Castro’s home.

“I’ll never forget it,” Burke said, explaining the women appeared dehydrated and malnourished. “It was surreal to me. I had been involved in the missing persons investigations for quite some time.”

Shown photos and a model of Castro’s home, Burke described a residence equipped with an alarm on the back door, a bedspread separating the kitchen and living area, a porch swing obstructing a flight of stairs and a curtain over the stairs leading to the area where the women were held captive.

The door to the room where Berry and her daughter were held had no doorknob and could be secured from the outside. Because the windows in that room were boarded up from the inside, Burke said, a hole was cut in the door for ventilation.

Authorities also found a “significant amount” of cash in a washing machine in the house. On occasion, Castro would throw the money at the women after sexually abusing them and require that they pay him to pick up any special items for them when he left the house, the agent said.

Also found in the home was a handwritten letter in which Castro described how he victimized his captives and declared, “I am a sexual predator,” Burke said. The letter also noted that Castro himself had been sexually abused as a child and mentioned an addiction to pornography and masturbation.

On cross-examination, Burke said the Castro also expressed remorse and said he was sick and mentally ill, but the FBI agent did not concur with the defense’s characterization of the letter as a suicide note.

Gerald Maloney, the emergency room doctor on duty when the three victims were taken to the hospital, described them as “very much emotionally fragile at the time” and said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

The women told Maloney that they had been sexually and physically abused and, at times, deprived of food during their years of captivity.

Castro lured DeJesus into his car in 2004 by asking her for help locating his daughter, said Det. Andrew Harasimchuk, recalling DeJesus’ statement to him. Castro then told DeJesus he had to go home for money before asking her for help moving a speaker, the detective said.

She became uncomfortable, and Castro told her she had to leave through a different door than the one she entered through. When she walked through that door, she found herself in the basement of his home, Harasimchuk said. Castro then chained her to a center support pole in the basement, bound her hands with plastic ties and sexually assaulted her, the detective said.

All three women told Harasimchuk that they had been repeatedly raped “vaginally, orally and anally” during their captivity, he said.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years.

At the beginning of his hearing, a shackled Castro, flanked by his lawyers and wearing an orange prison uniform and eyeglasses, quietly told the judge he understood the reporting requirements of his sex-offender status, should he ever be released, which is unlikely given the plea deal.

Defense attorney Craig Weintraub told the court that his client accepts “full responsibility” for his conduct. Noting that Castro promptly took responsibility for his crimes, Judge Michael Russo said that given the scope of the crimes, “I don’t know that this could’ve been any more dignified.”

With a model of Castro’s home in the courtroom, another defense attorney, Jaye Schlachet, said he did not approve of anything but the victims’ impact statements being introduced during the sentencing hearing. He also mentioned doctors’ reports and photos as other examples of things he felt shouldn’t be presented in court.

Russo later responded that he wanted to see records pertaining to the case and hear testimony to ensure that “the court can reach and appropriate sentence.”

Castro is expected to speak at length during his sentencing, delivering a statement that his sister promises will allow people to see “the other side of Ariel Castro.”

He’ll give a rather lengthy statement, explaining his life and who he really is, his sister, Marisol Alicea, told CNN on Wednesday night.

“(People will) see the other side of Ariel Castro … not the monster that everyone thinks he is,” she said, adding that she was in no way defending her brother.

“He must pay for what he did.”

Alicea said she doesn’t plan on attending the sentencing with others in her family, fearing the evidence will be too graphic.

Hearing to last hours

The sentencing hearing is expected to last hours and include witness testimony and evidence, a Cuyahoga County court source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN.

Prosecutors want to make sure there’s a record going forward in case of a future appeal, should Castro want to try to get out of prison, said the source who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Prosecutors also want the court and the public to understand the impact Castro’s actions had on his victims and the community.

At least one of Castro’s victims, Knight, will likely make an impact statement during the hearing, Alicea said. An official with direct knowledge of the investigation also said Knight intends to speak.

In a handwritten note, posted Wednesday on the Cleveland Police Community Relations Facebook page, Knight said she was overwhelmed with the support she has received from “complete strangers.”

“It is comforting. Life is tough, but I’m tougher,” she wrote. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly. Thanks.”

The other two women — DeJesus and Berry — will not be present in the court, according to the attorney representing the three women. They could make a videotaped statement, or a family member could talk on their behalf.

Evaluating a kidnapper

Prosecutors also have submitted an evaluation of Castro’s confinement and abuse of Knight, DeJesus and Berry that was compiled by acclaimed psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, considered a pioneer in trauma science.

The evaluation was part of the prosecution’s pre-sentencing report, which has been submitted to the court.

The evaluation — using statements, medical records, videotaped interviews and transcripts — painted a horrifying picture of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Castro that included brutal beatings and repeated rapes that resulted in pregnancies that he would end by punching the women in the stomach.

“He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,” Ochberg wrote.

Castro abducted Knight, Berry and DeJesus separately over a two-year period between 2002 and 2004, according to investigators.

Promise of a ride

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents submitted by Timothy McGinty, Cuyahoga County prosecuting attorney.

Castro “enticed” Knight to go inside the house, where she would be held captive in the next 11 years, with “promises of a puppy for her son.”

The documents also say that Castro “serially abused (Knight, Berry and DeJesus) physically, emotionally, and sexually on a daily basis.”

All three women kept diaries, with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details used in the case.

Knight suffered “the longest”

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter were held in Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home. DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the child’s father.

In the evaluation, Ochberg wrote that Knight, who was kidnapped first, suffered “the longest and most severely.”

“But it was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth (of Berry’s child). She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” he wrote.

“At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”

When freedom came

The women were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he heard their cries as he was sitting down to eat.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS. “I go on the porch and she says, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’”

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed. They have not faced their captor and tormentor since their rescue.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Cleveland kidnapper avoids death penalty with plea deal

By Pamela Brown and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN

The Ohio man who imprisoned three women in his Cleveland home for a decade will speak at length during his sentencing Thursday, delivering a statement that his sister promises will allow people to see “the other side of Ariel Castro.”

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years.

He’ll give a rather lengthy statement, explaining his life and who he really is, his sister, Marisol Alicea, told CNN on Wednesday night.

“(People will) see the other side of Ariel Castro … not the monster that everyone thinks he is,” she said, adding that she was in no way defending her brother.

“He must pay for what he did.”

Alicea said she doesn’t plan on attending the sentencing with others in her family, fearing the evidence will be too graphic.

Hearing to last hours

The sentencing hearing is expected to last hours and include witness testimony and evidence, a Cuyahoga County court source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told CNN.

Prosecutors want to make sure there’s a record going forward in case of a future appeal, should Castro want to try to get out of prison, said the source who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Prosecutors also want the court and the public to understand the impact Castro’s actions had on his victims and the community.

At least one of Castro’s victims, Michelle Knight, will likely make an impact statement during the hearing, Alicea said. An official with direct knowledge of the investigation also said Knight intends to speak.

In a handwritten note, posted Wednesday on the Cleveland Police Community Relations Facebook page, Knight said she was overwhelmed with the support she has received from “complete strangers.”

“It is comforting. Life is tough, but I’m tougher,” she wrote. “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, she became a butterfly. Thanks.”

It is unclear if the other two women — Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry — will address the court. They could make a videotaped statement, or a family member could talk on their behalf.

Evaluating a kidnapper

Prosecutors also have submitted an evaluation of Castro’s confinement and abuse of Knight, DeJesus and Berry that was compiled by acclaimed psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, considered a pioneer in trauma science.

The evaluation was part of the prosecution’s pre-sentencing report, which has been submitted to the court.

The evaluation — using statements, medical records, videotaped interviews and transcripts — painted a horrifying picture of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of Castro that included brutal beatings and repeated rapes that resulted in pregnancies that he would end by punching the women in the stomach.

“He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,” Ochberg wrote.

Castro abducted Knight, Berry and DeJesus separately over a two-year period between 2002 and 2004, according to investigators.

Promise of a ride

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents submitted by Timothy McGinty, Cuyahoga County prosecuting attorney.

Castro “enticed” Knight to go inside the house, where she would be held captive in the next 11 years, with “promises of a puppy for her son.”

The documents also say that Castro “serially abused (Knight, Berry and DeJesus) physically, emotionally, and sexually on a daily basis.”

All three women kept diaries, with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details used in the case.

Knight suffered “the longest

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter were held in Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home. DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the child’s father.

In the evaluation, Ochberg wrote that Knight, who was kidnapped first, suffered “the longest and most severely.”

“But it was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth (of Berry’s child). She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” he wrote.

“At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”

When freedom came

The women were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he heard their cries as he was sitting down to eat.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS. “I go on the porch and she says, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’”

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed. They have not faced their captor and tormentor since their rescue.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

CNN’s Chris Boyette, Ronni Berke, Ashley Fantz and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.

 

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

(CNN) — Ariel Castro agreed Friday in an Ohio courtroom to a plea deal in one of the most sensational kidnapping cases in recent memory. The deal, reached with prosecutors, would let him avoid the possibility of a death sentence and spare his alleged victims from having to testify at a trial.

The plea deal recommends that he be sentenced to life in prison without parole — that he never get a parole hearing. It could also mean that a trial Castro was facing August 5 will not happen and he will not face the possibility of being sentenced to death.

A source close to the case had earlier told CNN that the deal could require that Castro stand at a podium in court and plead guilty.

An attorney for three women had told CNN that they were hoping for a plea deal because they do not want to take the stand at Castro’s trial.

Castro is charged with 977 counts, including aggravated murder on suspicion of ending the pregnancy of one of his alleged captives.

Earlier this month, he pleaded not guilty to the charges. He is being held with bail set at $8 million.

Castro’s defense attorneys had previously said they wanted a deal that would take capital punishment out of the equation.

Castro abducted Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002, according to authorities.

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away from his 1,400-square-foot home. DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the rescued child’s father.

Their cries for help were heard by neighbor Charles Ramsey, who was sitting down to eat at his home nearby.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS. “I go on the porch and she says, ‘help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’ “

Figuring it was a domestic dispute, Riley kicked in the bottom of a door and the woman came out with a little girl and said, “Call 911, My name is Amanda Berry,” according to Riley, who said he didn’t recognize the name or know she was missing.

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she told police in a frantic 911 call from a neighbor’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in Cleveland in 2003. It was the eve of her 17th birthday.

DeJesus disappeared nearly a year later, in April 2004. She was 14.

Knight vanished in 2002, at age 21, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

By Julie Cannold, CNN

ohiokidnappingvictimsspeak

Ohio kidnapping victims speak out

For the first time since their rescue two months ago, the world is hearing directly from the three women who were held captive in Cleveland for a decade.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight released a video on YouTube, offering their thanks to all those who have supported them since they were freed from captivity.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal, everyone who has been there to support us. It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness,” Amanda Berry says in the video. Berry was abducted at age 16 in April 2003 and has a 6-year-old daughter, who was born during her captivity.

Gina DeJesus was 14 when she was kidnapped in 2004. She says to the public, “thank you for the support.”

Michelle Knight, who was abducted at age 21 in August 2002 says, “thank you everyone for your love, support, and donations which helped me build a brand new life. I want everyone to know I’m doing just fine. I may have been to hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground.”

The Courage Fund, which was established to help the three victims, has raised more than $1 million dollars.

The three women were held captive by Ariel Castro and were beaten, raped and starved for a decade, according to prosecutors.

They were freed in May after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from the house.

The women don’t plan to make any additional public statements.

“I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continue to respect our privacy and give us time to have a normal life,” Berry says.

Castro is accused of holding the women in his Cleveland home. He faces 329 counts, including one count of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy. His next pretrial hearing is scheduled for July 24th.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

By Dana Ford and Michael Martinez, CNN

An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Lawyers at an arraignment for Ariel Castro, 52, made the plea on their client’s behalf at his arraignment in a Cleveland courtroom after he was indicted last week on 329 counts.

His case has attracted national attention because of the unusual length and depravity of the alleged crimes.

“The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty.

Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

One of the young women he’s accused of holding was impregnated five times by Castro, and another bore a child fathered by him, according to police.

The indictment also charges Castro with 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools, McGinty said in a statement last week.

The charges cover only half of the 10 years the three women were held captive — from August 2002, when the first of the three disappeared off a Cleveland street, to February 2007.

The women were freed last month after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from his 1,400-square-foot home.

The prosecutor’s capital review committee will consider whether the case is appropriate for seeking the death penalty once the indictment process is complete, the prosecutor’s statement said.

Castro intended to plead not guilty, his attorneys told CNN affiliate WKYC in a recent exclusive interview.

“I know the media wants to jump to conclusions and all the people in the community want to say terrible things about the person who’s accused,” attorney Jaye Schlachet told the network.

“We are not even at the beginning of the process. If this was a marathon race, we’re not even at the starting line yet.”

The three woman held have been identified as Michelle Knight, abducted at age 21 in August 2002; Amanda Berry, kidnapped at age 16 in April 2003 and who has a 6-year-old daughter by Castro; and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus, who was 14 when she disappeared in 2004.

Lawyers for the women expressed confidence and satisfaction after the indictment came down last week.

“We have a great legal system, plus confidence and faith in the prosecutor’s office and its decisions. Now, we need to stand back and let the judicial process unfold,” said attorneys Jim Wooley and Kathy Joseph.

In a ghoulish twist, DeJesus actually knew Ariel Castro, her family told CNN affiliate WOIO.

She was a good friend of Castro’s daughter, Arlene.

One year after DeJesus’ appearance, Arlene Castro publicly crusaded to find her friend’s kidnapper. She went on the national television program “America’s Most Wanted” to plead for help in finding her friend in spring 2005.

Ariel Castro attended at least two public vigils for the missing girls — while they were allegedly inside his home — relatives told WOIO.

Castro, a former school bus driver, remains in a Cleveland jail on $8 million bond.

He made a brief court appearance soon after his arrest.

Handcuffed and wearing a blue jumpsuit, he looked down through that hearing. Castro did not speak.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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