5 Shocking Revelations from the Cleveland Kidnapping
After nearly a decade of imprisonment, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were finally rescued on Monday from their alleged captors, Ariel Castro and his two brothers, Pedro and Onil, in Cleveland, Ohio. The horrifying case has shocked Americans and set off a frenzied search for answers and information. Now, the gruesome details of their captivity-- as well as failed opportunities to rescue them sooner -- are becoming apparent. Here are five stunning things we know about the case so far:
1. Merciless Abuse
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight endured almost a decade of astounding physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the Castros, who appear to have forced the girls into years of sex slavery in a nightmarish dungeon in Ariel Castro's home. Police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC's Today Show that they had been bound, and that “there were chains and ropes in the hall." Raped repeatedly, the women reportedly endured up to five pregnancies, during which they were also beaten. The fetuses did not survive, with one woman reportedly suffering three miscarriages at the hands of her attackers. It appears, however, that one of the brothers fathered Berry’s six-year-old girl, who was found, terrified, in the home.
2. Missed Opportunities
Neighbors of Castro say they told police about horrific evidence of abuse -- naked women crawling on leashes, banging on windows for help -- years before the rescue came. Elsie Cintron, who lives three doors down, told USA Today her daughter once saw a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard, prompting her to call police. "But they didn't take it seriously," she said. Cintron also said she once saw a little girl gazing out of the attic window.
According to USA Today, another neighbor, Israel Lugo called police about two years ago after his sister told him she heard a woman who seemed to need help banging on a window at Castro’s home. “When his sister looked up, she saw a woman and a baby standing in a window half covered with a wooden plank. His sister told him and Lugo called the police.” Lugo told USA Today officers knocked on the front door, but when no one answered, "They walked to the side of the house and then left.” Neighbors also told USA Today they saw Ariel Castro walking a little girl to a nearby playground. Lugo says he, his family, and neighbors called the cops three times between 2011 and 2012.
Women who lived in a nearby apartment building made a third call to police after seeing three young girls crawling all fours, naked, with dog leashes around their necks. “Three men were controlling them in the backyard,” said USA Today, “The women told Lugo they waited two hours but police never responded to the calls.”
According to the Atlantic, "Police have only visited the address twice: Once in 2000, for a fight in the street (there were no arrests), and a second time in 2004, when Child Protective Services conducted an investigation related to Ariel Castro's job as a bus driver. (He inadvertently left a sleeping child on his bus, but it was a ruled a honest mistake and no charges were ever filed.)"
3. Another Victim?
Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight suffered for years just three miles away from where Castro took them, one by one, over the span of four years. Now, authorities are wondering whether another young girl, who went missing in the same West Side neighborhood, may also have been taken by Castro. And if so, what became of her.
Ashley Summers went missing in 2007, when she was fourteen, in the same West Side neighborhood where the three women were found alive Monday. Initial reports about the captives’ discovery instilled hope in Summers’ family that she might be among them, but they later realized they were out of luck. Police first believed she was a runaway, fleeing from her great uncle’s home after a fight. Now, authorities are investigating possible leads that might link her disappearance to Castro. “Whether it is something we find at the house or someone seeing the stories remembers something, we continue our search for Ashley,” FBI agent Vicki Anderson told The Plain Dealer.
According to Fox 8, Knight told police there was a fourth victim in the home when she kidnapped in 2002:
A source further noted that Knight told police that there was another woman in the home when she got there, but one day she woke up and the woman was gone. There is writing on the wall in the basement which includes the name of a female and says, “Rest In Peace,” but police do not know if that is related to the case at this time.
4. Castro Knew His Victims.
Ariel Castro reportedly knew Amanda Berry, a friend of his daughter, and Gina DeJesus, whose father was a friend. He even pretended to help look for the women he kidnapped when they went missing, the AP reports.
"When we went out to look for Gina, he helped pass out fliers," a community activist who was at the hospital with DeJesus and her family on Monday night told the AP. "You know, he was friends with the family." Another resident said he saw Castro comforting DeJesus' mother at a vigil about a year ago.
5. Family Trauma
The brother-in-law of Castro’s ex-wife says Ariel regularly abused his former partner, and even suspects that the abuse may have led to her death: “I believe he murdered my sister,” Jose Figueroa told the Daily Mail, “He abused her for years. She had multiple instances of serious head trauma and it created a brain tumor in her head. My sister was in hell living with him.”
Another harrowing revelation about the Castro family is that Emily Castro, Ariel’s daughter, is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for slashing her 11-month-old daughter’s throat in 2007. She then sliced her own neck and wrists before attempting to drown herself in a creek. Court records indicate she was diagnosed with manic depression at thirteen. But before we cast her as another villain in the Castro clan, remember that we know little about the abuse she may, too, have suffered at the hands of her father.
Berry, DeJesus, and Knight have all been released from the hospital and returned to their families. The three brothers living in the home have been arrested, but not yet formally charged.