May 9, 2013

Cleveland police: Women left captor's home twice in a decade

Meghan Barr and Thomas J. Sheeran / The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — Three women found alive after a decade in captivity endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away, investigators say.

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Ismail Figueroa, whose daughter was with Ariel Castro for years and had four children with him, explains why he wasn't surprised by Castro's arrest this week on suspicion of imprisoning three women in his house for a decade. Figueroa, 75, says Castro regularly locked his daughter inside an apartment when they were first together years ago and wouldn't let her leave.

AP

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This undated photo released by the Cleveland Police Department shows Ariel Castro, the 52-year-old former school bus driver suspected of keeping three women captive inside his decrepit house for a decade. He was charged Wednesday with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

AP

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The 52-year-old former school bus driver accused of kidnapping and raping the women will make his first public appearance in court Thursday after emerging as the lone suspect.

While many questions remain about how Ariel Castro maintained such tight control over the women for so many years before one of them made a daring escape Monday, the horrors they suffered are beginning to come to light.

Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times and were kept in different rooms. They suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and had miscarriages, according to a city official briefed on the case.

Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping — covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them — and three counts of rape, against all three women.

The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police that have helped build their case, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.

None of the women, though, gave them any indication that Castro's two older brothers, who've been in custody since Monday, were involved, Tomba said. Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence.

"Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Tomba said.

One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long.

"As far as the circumstances inside the home and the control he may have had over those girls ... I think that's going to take us a long time to figure that out," he said.

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.

At a news conference, authorities would not discuss the circumstances of their kidnapping and captivity.

City Councilman Brian Cummins earlier said: "We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don't know."

"It sounds pretty gruesome," he added.

They never saw a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week when Amanda Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.

In newly released police audio tapes, a 911 dispatcher notifies officers on Monday that she's just spoken to a woman who "says her name is Amanda Berry and that she had been kidnapped 10 years ago."

An officer on the recorded call says, "This might be for real."

After police arrive at the house, women can be heard crying in the background. Then an officer tells the dispatcher: "We found 'em. We found 'em."

Tomba said of Berry, "Something must have clicked and she saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity."

He said the women could remember being outside only twice during their entire time in captivity. "We were told they left the house and went into the garage in disguise," he said.

Also in the house was Berry's 6-year-old daughter. A paternity test on Castro was being done to establish whether he fathered the child.

While prosecutors announced charges against Castro, federal agents searched a vacant house near where the women had been held. Officials would only say their search was an attempt to get evidence in the case against Castro, but they refused to say what they found or what led them there.

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Amanda Berry returned to the home of her sister on Wednesday.

AP

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A sign hangs on the porch of the home where Amanda Berry went on Wednesday. As word of Berry's homecoming spread, a large crowd swelled in the street outside the home decorated with dozens of balloons, and homemade signs, one reading "We Never Lost Hope Mandy."

AP

 


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