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Prosecutor may seek murder charges, death penalty


A Cleveland man accused of kidnapping three young women and holding them in his home for about a decade could face additional charges, including for aggravated murder if authorities can tie him to forced miscarriages, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said Thursday.

Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court for the first time Thursday morning, and is being held on an $8 million bond.

Castro, wearing a navy blue jail-issued jumpsuit zipped over his chin, stood with his head down and did not speak during the brief court hearing. He faces three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping — one each for the three young women police say they rescued from his home earlier this week and one more for one of the women’s 6-year-old daughter.

The case will soon be presented to a grand jury and transferred to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.

McGinty said he would “leave no stone unturned” during his review of the case, and will seek the death penalty if it is warranted. One of the victims told police Castro raped and impregnated her several times, each time forcing her to have a miscarriage by denying her food for weeks and punching her repeatedly in the abdomen, according to reports from CNN and the New York Times.

Assistant City Prosecutor Brian Murphy said during Thursday morning’s court hearing that Castro held the women for years, keeping them bound and restrained, and “used them in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”

“Today the situation turns, your honor,” Murphy said. “Mr. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner, and the women are free to resume their lives that he interrupted.”

Documents police filed in court offer some detail about the charges against Castro. Nearly identical affidavits say he lured three women — Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus — into his vehicle in 2002, 2003 and 2004, respectively.

Knight, now 32, was 21 when she went missing. Berry, now 27, disappeared in 2003, when she was 16. DeJesus was 13 when she disappeared, and is 23 today.

“The defendant then transported the victim to his house at 2207 Seymour in Cleveland, Ohio, where he held her captive until May 6, 2013. During this time period the victim was repeatedly sexually assaulted by the defendant,” Detective Andrew Harasimchuck wrote about each of the abductions.

A fourth affidavit refers to Berry’s six-year-old daughter. The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer, citing confidential police records, said Castro forced Knight to deliver the girl, who was born in an inflatable swimming pool.

Police are performing a paternity test to confirm that Castro fathered the child.

Castro was a school bus driver for Cleveland city schools for 11 years until he was fired in October 2012.

Castro’s brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, who had been held with him since late Monday, also appeared in court on unrelated minor charges and were released. Police had considered them possible suspects in the kidnapping and rape case, but determined there was no evidence to connect them.

Pedro Castro pleaded no contest to a 2011 open container citation, and will be released and credited with the four days he spent in jail.

An open container and drug abuse charges from 2001 against Onil Castro was dismissed.

Cleveland police issued an internal memo that warned against releasing confidential police reports.

“Disclosure of this information may jeopardize due process in the criminal prosecution of Ariel Castro. This notice is not designed to conceal or withhold information from the general public or our media partners; rather, it is designed to ensure due process and for the compassion of the victims and their families,” the memo reads.


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