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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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CLEVELAND — Ariel Castro was indicted Friday on 329 counts for allegedly kidnapping and holding captive three young women in his Cleveland house for 10 years, authorities said.

One charge accuses the 52-year-old Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of a pregnancy, authorities said. One of the young women was allegedly impregnated five times by Castro, and another bore a child fathered by him, police have said.

The indictment charges Castro with 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said in a statement.

ariel castro mug shot

Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Dept.

Castro will be arraigned next week, authorities said.

The charges cover only half of the 10 years when the three young were held captive, from August 2002 when to the first of three women disappeared off a Cleveland street, to February 2007. The three women were freed last month after one shouted for help while Castro was gone from the house.

The prosecutor’s capital review committee will consider whether the case is appropriate for seeking the death penalty once the indictment process is complete, the prosecutor’s statement said.

“Today’s indictments represent a first major step in the criminal justice process,” McGinty said in a statement. “Our investigation continues, and we will present our findings to the grand jury.”

Charles Ramsey

Photo courtesy of Fox News

The man who helped rescue three kidnapped women in Ohio will enjoy free burgers for the rest of his life.

More than a dozen restaurants in the Cleveland area have pledged to give Charles Ramsey a free burger when he stops in. One restaurant even created a special “Ramsey Burger” in his honor.

To get the meal, all Ramsey has to do is flash his very own “Chuck Card” at the participating restaurants.

As you may recall, Ramsey said he was eating a Big Mac from McDonald’s when he saw Amanda Berry “going nuts” trying to get out of the home of Ariel Castro. His actions helped rescue Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight after nearly 10 years in captivity.

So far, no word from McDonald’s. The company previously tweeted it would “be in touch” with Ramsey.

Ramsey gained overnight Internet fame after granting some memorable interviews on local news broadcasts in Cleveland.

–Fox 13

 Ariel Castro, facing kidnapping and rape charges in connection with the Cleveland case of three women held prisoner for about a decade, will plead not guilty, his lawyers said Wednesday.

The announcement, made on national television, is part of the defense’s opening salvos in what could become a death penalty case.

Castro, 52, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, but prosecutors have indicated that he will face more charges from a Cuyahoga County grand jury that is dealing with the case.

Among the new charges could be aggravated murder for allegedly beating one of the women to force miscarriages — a charge officials said could bring the death penalty.

ariel castro mug shot

Photo courtesy of Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Dept.

PHOTOS: Kidnapping victims found

“The initial portrayal of him is one of a quote ‘monster,’ and that is not the impression that I got,” one of Castro’s two attorneys, Craig Weintraub, said in an interview that aired on Wednesday’s “Today” show.

Added co-counsel Jaye Schlachet: “He is a human being, but what is offensive is that the women and the media want to demonize this man before they know the whole story, and I think it’s unfair and not equitable.”

Prosecutors allege that Castro kidnapped the women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and held them prisoner for years in his house on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland.

The women were repeatedly beaten and abused, prosecutors allege. Berry gave birth to a daughter, and Castro is the father, according to DNA test results released last week by the state.

PHOTOS: Long-term abductions

Castro’s attorneys said they know what happened and that it will come out as the case moves ahead.

“I am aware of how he came in contact with them,” Weintraub told NBC News about the three victims. He did not reveal further details of the defense’s strategy.

One of the issues that lies ahead is the question of the trial, which would pit the three women against Castro. Officials, who have been very careful in what they say so as to give the women time to recuperate, are reluctant to force them to relive their experiences in open court.

However, with the death penalty a possibility, defense attorneys could decide that their main concern is to keep their client off death row and could use the threat of forcing the women to testify as a bargaining chip.

–Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times

By Matt Pearce

Los Angeles Times

For two days, Pedro and Onil Castro were suspects in one of the most notorious crimes in Cleveland’s history. Along with their brother, Ariel, the trio were arrested last week on suspicion of kidnapping, raping and holding three young women captive for roughly a decade.

Brothers Of Kidnapping Suspect Ariel Castro Speak Out For First TimeThen officials determined that Pedro and Onil were not linked to the crimes allegedly perpetrated by Ariel, 52. Now the pair say they have become collateral damage in the case against their brother.

“It’s going to haunt me down because people going to think, yeah, Pedro got something to do with this — and Pedro don’t have nothing to do with this,” Pedro Castro, 54, told CNN in an interview (click here) from an undisclosed location outside Cleveland. “If I knew, I would have reported it, brother or no brother.”

Onil Castro, 50, sitting alongside his brother, added his shock at having his name linked to the kidnappings.

“I was a very liked person, individual,” Onil told CNN. “I’ve never had any enemies. No reason for anybody to think that I would ever do something like that. It’s a shock to all my friends. They couldn’t believe it.”

Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, is being held in lieu of $8 million bail on four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Officials believe he fathered the 6-year-old girl recovered when one of the women escaped the home and called 911.

On Sunday, attorneys for the three victims issued statements from the women, who have been discharged from the hospital where they were taken after officials recovered them from Castro’s Seymour Avenue home.

“Thank you so much for everything you’re doing and continue to do,” said Amanda Berry‘s statement. “I am so happy to be home with my family.”

“I’m so happy to be home and want to thank everybody for all your prayers,” Gina DeJesus‘ statement said. “I just want time now to be with my family.”

“Thank you to everyone for your support and good wishes,” Michelle Knight‘s statement said. “I am healthy, happy and safe and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time.”

Attorney Jim Wooley, who read the statements on behalf of the women, urged the public and news media to respect their privacy. He said they will give no interviews to news outlets while the criminal case against Ariel Castro is active, given that they were both victims and witnesses.

“Ms. Berry, Ms. DeJesus and Ms. Knight have asked — in fact, have pleaded — for privacy at this time so that they can continue to heal and reconnect with their families,” Wooley said in his own statement. “You all care greatly about their well-being, so please respect this most basic request. Give them the time, the space and the privacy so that they can continue to get stronger.”

That announcement followed Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson’s order on Thursday for city law enforcement to stop leaking details of the women’s ordeal to the press, for the sake of the criminal case and out of respect for the victims.

After the discovery of the women May 6, a confidential police report that detailed horrific conditions in the home was leaked to the news media, prompting the crackdown.

SEATTLE — Every 40 seconds a child goes missing in the United States — a scary statistic and a nightmare for those parents whose child is among those who have disappeared.

missingAccording to the Missing Children Clearinghouse, more than 20,000 children are reported missing each year in Washington state; up to 95 percent of those are runaways. But after seeing what happened in Ohio, where three women were held for a decade in a home before being freed, some say people should never quickly come to the conclusion that their missing child simply ran away.

“On any given day, I have five parents calling me,” said Shellee Hale, founder of Camandago Inc., a private investigation agency that focuses on missing persons.

Ever since the horrific story of three Ohio women held in a man’s Cleveland home for a decade hit the news this week, Hale says many local parents with missing kids have been calling, wondering if their child may have been kidnapped.

“What we are doing is not good enough; for every child that is being captive, we need to find them and get them out of the situation,” said Hale.

Hale can also speak from personal experience. In 2012, Hale’s teenage son returned home on his own after running away for days. But Hale says every case, at least in the very beginning, should be treated as if the child was kidnapped.

“By the time we figure out that it might not be a runaway case, it is often too late,” said Hale.

Bellevue Police say when they get a missing person’s report, they react immediately regardless of whether it’s a runaway.

“You want to push for every single one of the cases until you have exhausted your leads,” said police spokeswoman Carla Iafrate.

Unless a witness sees a child being taken, police cannot give the resources and attention of a kidnapping.   Many of these kids vanished without a trace. Even high-profile cases are still unsolved with no leads. But  as we’ve seen over and over again, it’s not impossible for these missing kids to resurface after months or even years.

“It’s going to spark something in their hearts; they are going to call their detective and say is there something we can do, is there something we overlooked?” said Iafrate.

“I try to keep the parents in the place of hope,” said Hale.

Hale says every parent should know how to quickly access their child’s bank accounts, cell phone log and Facebook accounts just in case their child goes missing.

CLEVELAND (CNN) — Already in jail on kidnapping and rape charges for allegedly holding three women captive in his house for a decade, Ariel Castro may also face charges of murder in the termination of his captives’ pregnancies, a prosecutor said Thursday.

castroCuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty cited Ohio law that states a person can be charged with aggravated murder for killing unborn children. A conviction on such charges could lead to the death penalty.

According to an initial incident report obtained by CNN, one of the women held said she became pregnant at least five times while in Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home. When that happened, Michelle Knight told investigators, Castro “starved her for at least 2 weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried.”

It is not known how many times, if any, the other two women got pregnant only to miscarry. One of them, Amanda Berry, gave birth to a daughter while in captivity.

In addition to aggravated murder, McGinty vowed to seek charges “for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault (and) all his attempted murders.”

“The child kidnapper operated a torture chamber and private prison in the heart of the city,” the prosecutor told reporters Thursday. “The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension.”

Earlier in the day, the 52-year-old Castro was arraigned in a northern Ohio court on four counts of kidnapping and three of rape.

“The charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland’s West Side streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit,” assistant prosecutor Brian Murphy said in court.

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lauren Moore ordered Castro held on $8 million bond — $2 million for each of the three women and the child born to Berry before they were freed Monday evening.

Handcuffed and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, Castro looked down through the entire hearing. He did not speak.

Two of his brothers were in the same courtroom Thursday, facing unrelated misdemeanor charges before their release. Authorities initially arrested Pedro and Onil Castro in connection with the case, but they weren’t charged.

None of the abducted women has implicated the brothers, a law enforcement source closely involved with the investigation said, though authorities are still working “meticulously” to determine whether the brothers or anyone else knew about or facilitated alleged crimes.

So what was going through the suspect’s mind, when he allegedly lured the three women into a car between 2002 and 2004, took them to his home three miles away, and held them — chaining, threatening and repeatedly sexually assaulting them?

Neither Castro nor police have spelled out a possible motive publicly.

The suspect has talked with investigators, though, confessing to some of the actions he’s accused of, said a law enforcement source closely involved with the investigation. The source did not describe precisely what Castro confessed to when he was interrogated by authorities.

Investigators, meanwhile, are poring over evidence for ideas. Among the more than 200 items seized from Castro’s Seymour Avenue home are writings that they believe the suspect wrote, said two law enforcement sources closely involved in the case.

Those writings contain “specific detailing of actions and reasons behind actions” associated with the abduction of three women and their kidnapper’s behavior toward them, one of the law enforcement sources said. The source — who described the “pretty lengthy” writings as “more of a diary” — said while the writings included talk of suicide, that was just one aspect.

Furthermore, the suspect’s history of abuse by family members was cited as justification for his actions.

While more details continue to emerge, those out so far describe a living hell for the abducted women.

According to the initial incident report, the women said that Castro first chained them in the basement but later freed them from the chains and allowed them to live upstairs on the second floor.

They went outside only twice during their ordeal — and just “briefly” at that, Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said.

Most of the time the three would be in different rooms, though they interacted occasionally and came to “rely on each other for survival,” said a law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the investigation.

One thing they could count on was that their alleged captor would never let them out.

Castro would often test the young women by pretending to leave, the law enforcement source said. Then he’d suddenly return; if there were indications any of the women had moved, they’d be disciplined.

While Knight said that Castro forced her to miscarry her own unborn children, she told investigators that he ordered her to deliver Berry’s child, according to a police source familiar with the investigation.

The baby was delivered in a plastic tub or pool in order to contain the afterbirth and amniotic fluid, the source said.

But soon after Berry’s baby was born, panic ensued. The child stopped breathing, and everyone started screaming, the source said, citing accounts by the young women.

Knight said Castro threatened to kill her if the baby did not survive, the initial police report states.

“What’s most incredible here is that this girl who knows nothing about childbirth was able to deliver a baby that is now a healthy 6-year-old,” the source said.

On Thursday, Ohio Attorney General’s office spokesman Dan Tierney said that the FBI and Cleveland police have asked the state crime lab to expedite DNA tests on Berry’s child — which typically take 20 days, but ideally will be back by Friday — to determine if Castro is the father.

Knight remained hospitalized in good condition Thursday, said MetroHealth Medical Center spokeswoman Tina Shaerban-Arundel.

The other women held — Berry, her 6-year-old daughter and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus — are back with relatives.

CLEVELAND– Ariel Castro maintained his home as a prison for three young women, holding them in seclusion and sexually assaulting them for his own pleasure, a Cuyahoga County, Ohio, prosecutor told a judge Thursday.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy told the judge “the charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland’s Westside streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”

“Today, the situation has turned, your honor,” Murphy said. “Mr. Castro stands before you as a captive. … The women are free to resume their lives that were interrupted.”

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lauren Moore ordered Castro held on $8 million bond — $2 million for each of the four victims — the three women and the child born to one of them during her captivity.

Castro, handcuffed and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, looked down through the entire hearing. He did not speak.

ArielHe is accused of kidnapping the women — Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus — from the same Cleveland neighborhood between 2002 and 2004.

They were freed Monday after Berry staged a daring escape while Castro was away from the house. She drew the attention of neighbors who helped her break through a door and summon police.

According to an initial incident report obtained by CNN, Knight said she became pregnant at least five times during her captivity in Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home.

In conversations with police immediately after she was freed, she said that when Castro learned she was pregnant, he would “make her abort the baby,” according to the document.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

CLEVELAND — The man charged with kidnapping and raping three young women imprisoned in his Cleveland home for years is a “big bully” who apparently used chains and ropes to restrain his victims and let them outside just two times, to go into the garage, police said Wednesday as more details emerged about the accused’s violent past.

Ariel Castro was to make his first court appearance Thursday morning, but his two brothers arrested with him this week — Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50 — were not charged and appear to have known nothing about their sibling’s secret life, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

Ariel Castro, 52, was charged Wednesday with three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping. The kidnapping counts relate to the abductions of Michelle Knight in 2002, Amanda Berry in 2003, Gina DeJesus in 2004 and to the daughter born to a captive Berry six years ago. The rape counts refer to the women, who escaped Monday evening.

ArielTomba said Castro had waived his right against self-incrimination and had provided a detailed statement. Asked at a news conference about Pedro and Onil, Tomba said there was “absolutely” no indication they knew what was going on inside their brother’s rundown house with the small American flag flying outside.

“There is nothing that leads us to believe they were involved or they had any knowledge of this, and that comes from statements of our victims, and their statements and their brother’s statements. Ariel kept everybody at a distance,” he said.

Later, Tomba described Ariel Castro as “the big bully” of his brothers. “You didn’t get into his house,” he added. “This guy, he ran the show. He … acted alone.” Tomba said DNA had been taken from Castro to determine whether he was the father of Berry’s young daughter.

The two brothers were to appear in court Thursday in connection with some outstanding misdemeanor warrants but could go free immediately afterward.

For more on this LA Times story, click here.

Local News

Speak to your kids about ‘stranger danger’

SEATTLE — On the heels of the Cleveland abduction case, a lot of parents are taking the opportunity to talk with their children about stranger danger.

crime-scene-tape-police-lightsIt is one of the sad, unfortunate and all too often tragic realities that we can’t always be near our children and we can’t always protect them.

There will always be those who want to do them harm.

“I think everybody can understand the difference between when somebody is trying to be nice to you and wanting to pull you into a car or lead you away from what you are doing. I say that`s the communication that you want to continue to have with your child to develop that instinct. That`s what`s going keep you safe,” Bellevue Police Department spokesperson Carla Iafrate said.

The events in Cleveland this week serve as a great reminder to talk with our children about stranger danger.

These girls lost a decade of their lives after they were abducted, missing family, friends and an education.

Now parents can, not only, celebrate their return but share an important lesson with their children.

“It`s a good opportunity to talk to your kids about what`s gonna happen when a car drives by when they`re walking home from school and somebody`s saying get into my car. You want to say no, you want to yell, you want to run into a neighbor`s house. You want to get away,” Iafrate said.

No place is immune to the danger.

Here in Washington there are more than 70 open missing persons cases right now in our state.

You might recognize some of these faces, among them, a 2-year-old from Bellevue who vanished 18 months ago, little Sky Metalwala.

Information can help your child stay safe.

“There`s a fine line because you don`t want to scare them but you want to communicate with them that it`s important that they need to be aware out there. Any time ages that they start to walk to school maybe 7 all the way up and this is important for adults too,” Iafrate said.

The conversations don’t take long but experts say once is not enough.

Talk with your children often about the danger.

Help keep them safe until they can take care of themselves.