May 10, 2013

Relatives say Cleveland suspect was secretive, full of rage

By Meghan Barr and Mike Householder / The Associated Press

CLEVELAND — The mannequin was life-sized, with a mop-like wig and creepy, slanted eyes. Ariel Castro kept it propped against a wall of his house and liked to use it to scare people. Sometimes he drove around town with it in the back seat of his car.

click image to enlarge

Elida Caraballo talks about the abuse her late sister, Grimilda Figueroa, suffered at the hands of Figueroa's common-law husband, Ariel Castro, during an interview at her home in Cleveland on Thursday.

The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

In this undated photo provided by Elida Caraballo, her sister, Grimilda Figueroa, is shown with two of her children, Ryan, left, and Rosie. Figueroa, who died last year, was the common law wife of Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping and holding three women captive for a decade in his Cleveland home.

The Associated Press

Related headlines

"He threatened me lots of times with it," said Castro's nephew, 26-year-old Angel Caraballo, who was terrified of his uncle as a little boy and unnerved by him as an adult. "He would say: 'Act up again, you'll be in that back room with the mannequin.' "

Castro installed padlocks on every door leading into his dilapidated home on Seymour Avenue. He kept the basement bolted shut, too. When relatives showed up at his front door, he made them wait for half an hour before emerging, and nobody was ever allowed past the living room.

"He had told me to stay in the kitchen," said Elida Marie Caraballo, Castro's niece, who was at his house about seven years ago with Castro's daughter Rosie. "I didn't know why."

In the days since Castro's arrest on charges of keeping three women imprisoned in his home for a decade, relatives and acquaintances have sketched a portrait of him as a man with a twisted sense of humor, a compulsion for secrecy and a towering, terrifying rage that led him to savagely beat, torment and control his common-law wife, Grimilda Figueroa.

They described him as a "monster."

The image stands starkly at odds with the picture drawn by some neighbors, fellow musicians and others. They described the former school bus driver as an affable guy who played bass in a merengue band and rode motorcycles around town.

"You can talk to him and you think he's a nice guy," said Frank Caraballo, Castro's brother-in-law. "I think it was a female thing. He was really controlling with females. You know, he didn't want no one to touch his daughters. He wanted to know everything his wife did."

Castro, 52, is being held in jail on $8 million bail under a suicide watch, charged with rape and kidnapping. Prosecutors said they plan to bring additional counts, possibly including murder charges punishable by death for allegedly forcing at least one of his pregnant captives to miscarry over and over again by starving her and punching her in the belly.

A DNA test confirmed Friday that he fathered the now 6-year-old girl born to one of the women while in captivity.

Castro was represented in court on Thursday by public defender Kathleen Demetz, who said she is acting as Castro's adviser if needed until he is appointed a full-time attorney. She said Friday that she can't speak to his guilt or innocence and that she advised him not to give any news interviews that might jeopardize his case.

Figueroa left Castro years ago and died last year after a long illness. During their early years together, Castro worked in a plastics factory and treated his wife well, relatives said. But after their first child was born, they said, something snapped in him.

He beat Figueroa relentlessly, her relatives said. They said he pushed her down the stairs, fractured her ribs, broke her nose several times, cracked a tooth and dislocated both shoulders. Once, he shoved Figueroa into a cardboard box and closed the flaps over her head, they said.

Figueroa filed domestic-violence complaints accusing Castro of threatening many times to kill her and her daughters. She charged that he frequently abducted the children and kept them from her, even though she had full custody, with no visitation rights for Castro.

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)