Ohio abduction suspect charged with rape and kidnapping

Ohio abduction suspect charged with rape and kidnapping

A man has been charged with rape and kidnapping after three women missing for a decade were found alive at his Ohio home.

The women were subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages, a Cleveland city councillor briefed on the case said.

Police said the women went outside just twice over the years.

Puerto Rican-born Ariel Castro (aged 52) was charged with four counts of kidnapping - covering all three captives and the daughter born to one of them while she was held - and three counts of rape against the three women.

But prosecutors brought no charges against his brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, who were also arrested, saying there was no evidence they had any part in the crime.

Councilman Brian Cummins said many details remained unclear, including the number of pregnancies and the conditions under which the miscarriages occurred.

He said the women were kept in the basement for some time without having access to the rest of the house. Police said they were apparently bound with ropes and chains.

"It sounds pretty gruesome," Mr Cummins said.

The women's plight has riveted the US since 27-year-old Amanda Berry kicked through a screen door at the house on Monday, used a neighbour's telephone to call authorities and told a police dispatcher: "I'm free now."

A policeman arrived minutes later and Ms Berry ran out and threw her arms around the officer, a neighbour said.

People in the largely Puerto Rican neighbourhood said Ariel Castro had taken part in the search for one of the missing women, performed music at a fund raiser for her and attended a candlelight vigil, where he comforted her mother.

Two of the women were welcomed home yesterday by jubilant crowds. Neither Ms Berry nor Gina DeJesus, about 23, spoke publicly, and their families pleaded for patience and time alone.

The third captive, Michelle Knight, 32, was reported to be in good condition at a local hospital.

All three women apparently had been held captive in the house since their teens or early 20s, police said. But law enforcement officials left many questions unanswered, including how the women were taken captive.

Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told a news conference that a paternity test on Ariel Castro was being done to establish who fathered Ms Berry's now six-year-old child.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said earlier he was "absolutely" sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years and disputed claims by neighbours that officers had been called to the house before for suspicious circumstances.

"We have no record of those calls coming in over the past 10 years," he said.

Neighbours and those who know Ariel Castro said he joined in the search for Ms DeJesus nearly a decade ago and comforted her mother just a year ago at a vigil.

"When we went out to look for Gina, he helped pass out fliers," said Khalid Samad, a community activist who said Castro was friends with Ms DeJesus' father.

As recently as 2005, Ariel Castro was accused of repeated acts of violence against his children's mother.

A domestic-violence court filing at the time accused Castro of twice breaking the nose of his children's mother, knocking out a tooth, dislocating each shoulder and threatening to kill her and her daughters three or four times in a year.

Neighbours say Castro played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands and gave neighbourhood children rides on his motorcycle.

Juan Perez, who lives two doors down from the house, said Castro was always happy and respectful.

"He gained trust with the kids and with the parents. You can only do that if you're nice," he said.

Another neighbour, Francisco Cruz, said he was with Castro the day investigators dug up a garden looking for the girls.

Castro told him: "They're not going to find anyone there," Mr Cruz said.

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