Rape and kidnapping charges in Cleveland

One of the men accused of holding three women captive in a suburban Cleveland home has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

Rape and kidnapping charges in Cleveland

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were rescued on Monday after being held for about a decade. Authorities said they had been bound in chains. Also released was a 6-year-old girl, Ms Berry’s daughter.

Last night Ariel Castro, 52, the owner of the house, was charged. His brothers, Onil and Pedro, who were arrested after the women were rescued, will not face charges at this time, according to prosecutors.

Meanwhile, details continued to emerge of the women’s treatment.

They were subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages, a city councilman briefed on the case said yesterday.

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

“We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don’t know,” Cummins said. He added: “It sounds pretty gruesome.”

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

Further details emerged of the background of the accused. Divorced years ago and never seen in the company of women, Ariel suddenly started showing up in the working-class neighbourhood with a 6-year-old girl, it was reported yesterday. It was his girlfriend’s child, he told neighbours.

Castro was believed to have lived alone, yet on his lunch break would bring home enough bags of fast food and beverages for several people.

He was a school bus driver given mostly “excellent” marks on his performance appraisals, but was repeatedly disciplined, including for one incident when he was accused of calling a student a “bitch” and leaving the child alone on a bus. He was fired last November.

Castro was arrested in 1993 after a domestic violence complaint, though a grand jury decided not to indict him. Another complaint in 2005 filed by his ex-wife, who died last year at age 48, accused him of twice breaking her nose and attempting to abduct their daughters and keep them from her mother. That case was dismissed.

Family, friends and neighbours were shocked when police rescued three women locked inside Castro’s house on Monday.

“It could be he was hiding a personality, because if it did happen you would have to have two personalities,” said Julio Cesar Castro, 77, the arrested brothers’ uncle.

For years, Castro’s neighbours on Seymour Avenue saw him as a friendly but private person, an accomplished musician who played bass in Latin bands. He liked motorbikes and showed up at neighbourhood barbecues. He was a self-taught mechanic who loved to talk about cars.

Police spokesman Sammy Morris said ropes and chains were taken from the house.

The women’s plight has riveted the US since Ms Berry, 27, kicked through a door at the house on Monday, and used a neighbour’s phone to call authorities and told a police dispatcher: “I’m free now.”

An officer showed up minutes later, and Ms Berry ran out and threw her arms around the officer, a neighbour said.

Ms Berry arrived at her sister’s home yesterday to a cheering crowd. Another of the captives, Gina DeJesus, about 23, returned to her family’s home in the afternoon to chants of “Gina! Gina!” The third woman, Michelle Knight, 32, was reported as in good condition at a local hospital.

Neither Ms Berry nor Ms DeJesus spoke publicly, and their families pleaded for patience and time alone.

“Even the ones that doubted, I want to thank them the most,” Nancy Ruiz, Ms DeJesus’s mother, said. “They’re the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there.”

Police chief Michael McGrath told NBC he was “absolutely” sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years. He 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,” Mr McGrath said. On Tuesday, some neighbours said they had told police years ago about hearing pounding on the doors of the home and seeing a naked woman crawling in the yard.

Mr McGrath said that the women were restrained and “released out in the back yard once in a while”.

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.

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