Story Summary

3 girls kidnapped a decade ago found safe

CLEVLAND — Three kidnapped girls were found safe after being kidnapped decades ago. Three brothers in their 50s were arrested.

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Offbeat
11/04/13

Knight: ‘I was tied up like a fish’

CLEVELAND — Six months after she was freed from the “house of horrors”where Ariel Castro held her captive for 11 years, Cleveland kidnapping victim Michelle Knight is speaking out.

In an exclusive interview with Dr. Phil McGraw scheduled to air Tuesday and Wednesday, Knight describes a moment when Castro trapped her in a room and tied her up with an orange extension cord.

“I was tied up like a fish,” she said, “an ornament on the wall.”

In excerpts of the interview posted on the show’s YouTube channel, Knight says Castro taped her mouth shut with duct tape. She tells McGraw she once picked a lock to try to escape, drawing an ominous warning from Castro: “Now you’re gonna be punished.”

Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were freed from Castro’s Cleveland home in May, drawing national attention to the horrific case.

Tknighthe dramatic rescue came after neighbors heard Berry’s cries and broke down a door.

In August, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after he pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. He committed suicide in his prison cell in September.

Knight, 32, was 21 years old when she was reported missing.

Before their rescue, Knight’s disappearance generated less publicity and attention than the kidnappings of Berry and DeJesus, and a level of mystery still surrounds her case.

But since their rescue, Knight hasn’t shied away from speaking out.

“After 11 years, I am finally being heard, and it’s liberating,” she said in a powerful statement at Castro’s sentencing describing the abuse she endured.

“You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning,” she told Castro. “I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”

For more on this CNN story, click here.

By Matt Pearce, Los Angeles Times

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro may have died from autoerotic asphyxiation, according to a new report that also says guards falsified prison observation logs and made other mistakes while monitoring him before his Sept. 3 suicide.

Castro instantly became one of America’s most notorious criminals in May after police discovered three young women who had been kidnapped, raped and held in his home for roughly a decade. His conviction, life sentence and even his death provoked little sympathy from a disgusted public.

Yet members of his family, who had denounced his crimes, also demanded that officials hold themselves accountable for Castro’s safety in prison. An investigation of his death by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction revealed Thursday that some guards did not make all of their required rounds and falsified reports to say that they did.

Two staff members have been put on leave as a result, the report said.

“Rounds were not properly completed. Post log books were falsified. There was no satisfactory verification process in place,” the report said, noting that in the seven hours leading up to Castro’s death, guards had apparently skipped eight of their half-hourly observations, according to video footage that was checked against guard logs.

A guard, however, had checked on Castro half an hour before he was found hanging in his cell, a discovery that also happened during a routine check.

Craig Weintraub, Castro’s defense attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.

The report also revealed that Castro, after receiving mental health screening on entering the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio, did not appear to have any mental health disorders or suicidal thoughts.

Those findings led officials to conclude in the report that there was no “substantiated” reason for why he committed suicide. He left no note, made no obvious overtures.

This led to one of the report’s most startling suggestions.

“He was hanging from a hinge in the window of his cell by a sheet wrapped around his neck. His pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles. The relevance of this finding is unclear. These facts, however, were relayed to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for consideration of the possibility of autoerotic asphyxiation.”

Autoerotic asphyxiation is a sexual practice in which someone tries to partially suffocate themselves while masturbating in order to reach a more intense climax. Deaths from autoerotic asphyxiation are rare, but not unheard of.

The report made no conclusions about whether Castro had indeed killed himself that way, but added, “No other immediate observations about the scene led to conclusions about the motivation for the self-inflicted death.”

A Bible in Catro’s cell was found opened to John chapters 2 and 3, in which Jesus turns water into wine, and which also contains the famous passage: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Castro also had pictures of his family arranged in “a poster-board fashion.” The report noted that family members had visited twice in the weeks before his death, on Aug. 12 and Aug. 26, but officials added that “no significant events were reported from these visits.”

The report also detailed that Castro had written down complaints about being verbally harassed by prison staff and other inmates, and that he was so worried about his food being poisoned that he sometimes refused to eat, flushing the food down his toilet.

arielcastro

ORIENT, Ohio (FOX8 News) — Convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro, who had held three women in his Cleveland home for up to a decade, hanged himself in his jail cell Tuesday night, authorities said. He had been sentenced on Aug. 1 to life in prison and 1,000 years.

castro1Castro was being held at the Correction Reception Center in Orient, Ohio. According to officials, he was found hanging in his cell at 9:20 p.m. Tuesday He had been in protective custody and in the cell by himself, according to officials.

After finding Castro, prison medical staff began performing life-saving measures. He was taken to Ohio State University Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

A review of the incident is under way.

Castro had been serving a life in prison sentence for kidnapping and raping Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight and holding the three women hostage for a decade.

The Ohio Department of Corrections released this statement:

“Inmate Ariel Castro was found hanging in his cell this evening at 9:20 pm at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient. He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals.  Upon finding inmate Castro, prison medical staff began performing life saving measures. Shortly after he was transported to OSUMC where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 pm. A thorough review of this incident is underway and more information can be provided as it becomes available pending the status of the investigation.”

This Morning
08/07/13

House of horrors being demolished

CLEVELAND – Just before the Cleveland house where she’d been held captive for a decade was to be torn down, Michelle Knight celebrated by handing out and releasing yellow balloons.

Knight was on hand Wednesday morning as workers began tearing down the house of horrors where Ariel Castro held Knight and two other women for years.

“I want the people out there to know, including (abductees’) mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope. And their child will come back,” she told reporters outside the house.

Castro forfeited the house on Seymour Avenue as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that took the death penalty off the table in exchange for a life sentence, plus 1,000 years in prison.

HouseDemolition began around 7:30 a.m. as an aunt of another former Castro captive, Georgina DeJesus, made the first hit on the house, operating a hydraulic excavator with assistance.

Before the demolition, Knight gave out yellow helium-filled balloons to people gathered in the neighborhood. Then, standing not far from the house where she lived an 11-year nightmare, she led a group in releasing the balloons, which she said represented abducted children who were never found.

“I go from here as being a motivational speaker and let everybody know that they are heard, that they are loved, and that there is hope for everyone,” she said.

The goal is the tear the house down and get the property filled in, graded and seeded in a single day, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is supervising the demolition.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

 

By Michael Muskal

Los Angeles Times

castroMichelle Knight, one of the three women kidnapped and sexually abused for years by Ariel Castro, described how she spent 11 years “in hell” as his sex slave, and told her former captor in court Thursday that “your hell is just beginning.”

Castro was sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison, plus 1,000 years to ensure he will die in prison.

“You may think you are the victim,” Judge Michael J. Russo told Castro. “But you are not a victim, you are a victimizer.”

Knight’s appearance was the first time she has been seen in public since she and two other women were liberated from Castro’s Cleveland house where they were held prisoner and repeatedly abused by Castro.

“You took 11 years of my life away,” Knight said at the sentencing hearing for Castro. “I spent 11 years in hell, and your hell is just beginning.”

Castro was impassive as Knight and relatives of the other victims spoke. He wore an orange prison jumpsuit. When he entered the courtroom after a break, he looked to the audience, but it was unclear whether he saw Knight, sitting with her family.

“These people are trying to paint me as a monster. I am not a monster. I am sick,” Castro told the court. He then said that he was addicted to pornography, but that was not an excuse for his actions.

“I hope you can find it in your hearts to forgive me,” he said later in his rambling statement, at times with tears in his eyes, before sentencing.

Castro has accepted a plea deal that will spare him the death penalty but will keep him in prison for the rest of his life.

Knight, now 32, was the first woman abducted by Castro in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son, police testified earlier in the sentencing hearing.

Castro has already pleaded guilty to hundreds of counts describing how he kidnapped the three women and repeatedly abused them. Castro has also admitted that he forced Knight to miscarry by repeatedly beating her.

A letter believed to have been written by Castro that investigators retrieved from his home was displayed at his sentencing hearing. The letter reads, in part, “Bottom line is, I am a sexual predator.”

Castro in his comments agreed with that characterization.

Images from inside Castro’s home were also shown in court. One bedroom had stuffed animals, toys, an easel and a beside toilet. The windows were boarded up, the door locked from the outside and it had a hole cut in it for ventilation.

Other photos showed the basement where Castro kept his victims, and a chain used to restrain them.

Another victim, Amanda Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and the third victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house. Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

The women quickly escaped after Berry kicked out a door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours. The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

 

(WPIX) — Charles Ramsey says the fame that followed him after the Ohio kidnapping rescue ruined his life.

CLEVELAND — Cleveland kidnapping victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight released a video Monday thanking people from around the world for their support. It was their first public statements since being rescued in May, after nearly a decade of being held against their will.

kidnapvictimsEach of the three women speak separately — first Berry, then DeJesus and then Knight — in the videotape posted on YouTube Monday.

The women said they were extremely grateful for “the tremendous outpouring of kindness they have received and wished to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages with this video,” according to information posted on the website.

Knight, who reportedly had five miscarriages during her time in captivity, said she had “been through hell and back” but that she knows she can now “walk through hell with a smile on my face” and that she wouldn’t let the ordeal change her or fill her with hatred.

The video was recorded on July 2 at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland.

Berry was last seen after finishing her shift at a Burger King in 2003 on the eve of her 17th birthday. DeJesus disappeared at age 14 in 2004, and Knight vanished in August 2002, at age 21.

The three women and Amanda Berry’s daughter were found in early May 2013 in the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro. Castro now faces kidnapping and rape charges.

Castro was indicted in June on 329 counts for allegedly kidnapping and holding the three young women captive in his Cleveland house.

For information about the Cleveland Courage Fund, established to help survivors Knight, DeJesus, Berry and Berry’s daughter, please visit www.clevelandcouragefund.org.

knight

OHIO– Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of holding three women captive for about a decade, is competent to stand trial, a judge said at a hearing Wednesday.

Judge Michael Russo said a competency evaluation showed with “reasonable medical certainty” that Castro, 52, is capable of understanding the proceedings and assisting counsel.

“So consistent with the statute where there is presumption of competency and consistent with the report done by our experts which the court is accepting as evidence for purposes of this hearing, the court finds Mr. Castro is competent to proceed in this matter, to assist council and to stand trial,” the judge said.

Castro, clad in an orange prison suit, sat in the court during the hearing, his head lowered and eyes sometimes closed.

castro1He is accused of holding the women in his Cleveland home. He faces 329 counts, including one count of aggravated murder for allegedly causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

From CNN

CLEVELAND — An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty on Wednesday.

Lawyers at an arraignment for Ariel Castro, 52, entered the plea on their client’s behalf at his brief arraignment in a Cleveland courtroom after he was indicted last week on 329 counts.

castro1Castro wore an orange jumpsuit, kept his head bowed and didn’t speak. His attorneys told CNN affiliate WKYC in a recent exclusive interview that he had intended to make that plea.

“I know the media wants to jump to conclusions and all the people in the community want to say terrible things about the person who’s accused,” attorney Jaye Schlachet told the network.

“We are not even at the beginning of the process. If this was a marathon race, we’re not even at the starting line yet.”

Castro’s case has attracted national attention because of the unusual length and depravity of the alleged crimes.

“The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty.

Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

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