Seymour Avenue was a prison to three captive women and child, judge told
Accused Ariel Castro held on bond of $8m on three counts of rape and four counts of kidnap
Ariel Castro (right), Pedro Castro (centre) and Onil Castro in court in Cleveland yesterday. Ariel Castro was formally charged with kidnapping and raping three women; his brothers were released without charge. Photograph: John Gress/Reuters
Number 2207 Seymour Avenue was “a prison to these three women and the child”, prosecutor Brian Murphy told a judge about the house the accused, Ariel Castro, held the four captive in Cleveland, Ohio.
“Today, the situation is turned on him,” Mr Murphy, the assistant prosecuting attorney, continued before Judge Lauren Moore. “Mr Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner.”
Castro (52) was held on a bond of $8 million (€6 million) on three counts of rape and four counts of kidnap for holding Amanda Berry (27), Gina DeJesus (23) and Michelle Knight (32) as prisoners for about a decade and holding Jocelyn, the girl Ms Berry gave birth to in captivity on Christmas Day 2006.
A paternity test is being conducted to determine the identity of the father of the girl named Jocelyn who was born in a plastic inflatable children’s swimming pool. Castro has consented to a DNA test.
Local television station WKYC-TV, citing a police report, said Ms Knight performed CPR on the baby when she was not breathing after being born. Castro had threatened to kill Ms Berry if the baby died.
The report also said Ms Knight told police she got pregnant at least five times while in captivity, miscarrying each after being starved and repeatedly punched in the stomach by Castro. Cleveland’s deputy police chief Ed Tomba would not elaborate on whether there had been any other pregnancies during the time the women were held in the house.
Police arrested Castro and his brothers on Monday after Ms Berry escaped from the house. She broke through part of its front door and screamed for help and was rescued by neighbours. Castro’s brothers were later released without charge. Police say they had no involvement in the abductions.
The women were subjected to sexual and psychological abuse during their time in the house, said a Cleveland councilman Brian Cummins who was briefed on the case.
“We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don’t know,” he said. “It sounds pretty gruesome.”
Castro didn’t speak during his arraignment hearing. He wore a navy blue jumpsuit and tried to shield his face by pushing his chin inside his collar. “He did not want to be on camera,” his court-appointed lawyer Kathleen DeMetz said.
Castro, a bus driver but unemployed since last November, was put on suicide watch in jail.
The court was told that the victims were bound, sexually assaulted and beaten. They were only allowed to leave the house on two occasions in the Cleveland neighbourhood not far from where they were abducted when Castro gave them lifts. Ms Knight was taken in 2002, Ms Berry in 2003 and Ms DeJesus in 2004.
The women remembered being taken to a garage next to the house on the two occasions they left 2207 Seymour Avenue and were disguised in wigs and hats.
They were chained in the basement before later being moved to the second floor of the house where they were kept in separate rooms and only allowed to see each other occasionally.
Castro played on the fears of the women to keep them in the house, according to reports. He would leave a door open to allow them to try to escape only to beat them if they attempted to flee.
During their time in captivity Castro marked the anniversaries of the abductions of the women by serving dinner and cake, a cousin of one of the victims told The New York Times .
“He would celebrate their abduction day as their new birthday,” the relative said.
Ms Berry and Ms DeJesus have both returned to family homes after being released from hospital, while Ms Knight was still hospitalised in Cleveland yesterday but is said to be in good condition.