Homeowner Charged In Ohio Abductions
(CNN) — The three women freed from a Cleveland home this week were held in separate rooms and left the house only twice during about a decade in captivity, authorities said Wednesday.
A few new details of the conditions Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus lived in came out Wednesday as authorities announced charges against the owner of the home where they were found.
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, faces three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping in the case. His brothers Onil, 50, and Pedro, 54, who were arrested with him Monday, won’t be charged, prosecutor Victor Perez said.
Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told reporters that Ariel Castro “kept everybody at a distance.”
“There is nothing that leads us to believe that they were involved or had any knowledge of this,” Tomba said. “That comes from statements of our victims and their statements and their brother’s statements.”
The three women and a 6-year-old daughter Berry gave birth to while in captivity were freed Monday after neighbors heard Berry calling for help. Knight had been missing since August 2002, Berry since April 2003 and DeJesus since April 2004.
All three women disappeared from the same Cleveland street — Lorain Avenue — and were held just three miles away.
A law enforcement source with firsthand knowledge of the investigation told CNN that the women saw their parents on television at vigils held for them. They knew their families were were looking for them and were very emotional about it, the source said.
But Knight and DeJesus did not flee when Berry did, the source said, describing them as brainwashed and fearful.
The women have told investigators they left the house only twice during their captivity — and then only to go into the garage, in disguise. When Berry staged a daring escape Monday night with the aid of two neighbors, Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero, it was the first chance any of the women had had to escape, Tomba said.
“They don’t believe they’ve been outside of the home for the last 10 years respectively,” he said. While kept in separate rooms, “they did know each other and they did know each other was there,” he said.
City officials said ropes and chains have been found inside the home. Investigators wouldn’t discuss reports that the women had been bound during their captivity at Wednesday evening’s news conference, but Police Chief Michael McGrath told NBC’s “Today” that “We have confirmation that they were bound.”
Castro is scheduled for arraignment Thursday morning. He has waived his rights and is cooperating with investigators, Tomba said. Investigators don’t consider him a suspect in any other disappearances, Tomba said.
In the process, detectives took a DNA sample to help determine the paternity of Berry’s daughter.
And the probe has so far resulted in no new leads regarding Ashley Summers, another missing woman from the area, he said. Summers was last seen in July 2007, when she was 14. Her family had held out hope that the discovery at Castro’s home would have led to a break in her case.
Knight, now 32, remained in a Cleveland hospital in good condition. But Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, returned to their homes Wednesday.
Well-wishers cheered as a gray van carrying Berry and her daughter. The porch of her family’s home was decorated with balloons and stuffed animals and draped with a red banner that read, “Welcome home Amanda.”
“We are so happy to have Amanda and her daughter home,” her sister, Beth Serrano, told reporters. “I want to thank the public and media for their support and courage over the years.”
A similar scene played out at the DeJesus home. Family members embraced their long-lost relative, who was wearing a neon-green hooded sweatshirt as she was escorted into the home she hadn’t seen since 2004.
“I knew my daughter was out there alive,” Felix DeJesus, Gina’s father, said Wednesday. “I knew she needed me, and I never gave up — never gave up searching for her.”
Knight was 21 when she vanished. A police report on her disappearance described her as having “mental abnormalities,” but her mother told “Today” that Knight suffered only from asthma.
“Certain people, they told me that maybe she didn’t want nothing to do with me,” Barbara Knight said. “But still, in my heart, I thought, no, because I know my Michelle.”
Barbara Knight said she had not yet spoken to her daughter.
“She’s probably angry at the world, because she thought she would never be found, but thank God that somebody did,” she said. Asked what she would say, Barbara Knight said, “I love you and I missed you all this time.”
Evidence technicians returned to Ariel Castro’s home again Wednesday and to another home down the block. But an exhaustive search has turned up no evidence of human remains, Cleveland Public Safety Director Martin Flask said.
Some neighbors of Ariel Castro second-guessed themselves Tuesday, questioning why they hadn’t noticed signs earlier and whether they could have prevented the horrors. Others said they had reported something suspicious to police in the past — statements the city’s police department have denied.
Police had visited the home twice, authorities said Tuesday, once after Castro called about a fight in the street and again in 2004 to investigate an incident in which was accused of leaving a child alone on a bus. No one answered at the home, and investigators later interviewed him elsewhere, police say.
“Media reports of multiple calls to the Cleveland Police reporting suspicious activity and the mistreatment of women at 2207 Seymour are false,” spokeswoman Maureen Harper said in an e-mailed statement. Other officials said call records contained no evidence that neighbors ever called police to report unusual activity at the home.
On Tuesday, neighbor Israel Lugo and another neighbor, Nina Samoylicz, told CNN that they had called police in recent years to report separate incidents at the home.
Samoylicz said she and others saw a naked woman in the backyard of the home and called police. But Faliceonna Lopez, Samoylicz’ sister, told a slightly different version Tuesday night on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Live.” She said after seeing the woman, they told their mother, not police.
Lugo said he called police in 2011, after hearing yelling coming from the home. He said police knocked on the door “like 20 good, hard times,” without response. They looked around the property, weren’t able to see anything and left, he said.
According to court documents, Ariel Castro’s former common-law wife accused him of repeatedly abusing her, including breaking her nose twice, breaking two ribs, dislocating her shoulder twice and knocking out a tooth.
Grimilda Figueroa, who died in 2012, also accused Castro of causing a blood clot on her brain, according to the 2005 documents. A judge granted a protection order but lifted it three months later after repeated court delays and hearings Castro did not attend, according to the documents.
Figueroa’s father, Ishmael Figueroa, said Ariel Castro was abusive toward his late daughter. He said he and his wife once shared a house with Castro and Grimilda, and Castro would not let family members upstairs to the second floor where the couple lived. When they moved to the Seymour Avenue house, Castro would not let family members inside, Figueroa said.
But Maria Castro Montes, a cousin of the suspect, told CNN Wednesday that if other family members had had any inkling or suspicion of wrongdoing, they would have spoken up.
CNN’s Zoraida Sambolin, Poppy Harlow, Ed Payne, Pamela Brown, Greg Botelho,Tory Dunnan, Martin Savidge, Laura Ly and Rande Iaboni contributed to this report.