Cleveland captive beaten in effort to end at least 5 pregnancies
Cleveland (CNN) — One of three women held captive in a Cleveland home said she was pregnant at least five times but was starved and punched until she eventually miscarried, according to an initial incident report obtained by CNN.
In conversations with police immediately after she was freed, Michelle Knight said that when Ariel Castro found out she was pregnant, “Ariel would make her abort the baby,” the document states.
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A Cleveland Municipal Court judge ordered Castro held Thursday on $8 million bond — $2 million bond on each of the four cases against him. The four cases involve four counts of kidnapping — relating to the three women and a child born in captivity — and three counts of rape.
Castro, handcuffed and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, looked down through the entire hearing. He did not speak.
As Castro prepared to make his first court appearance Thursday on charges of kidnapping and rape, the accusations of what he did to the three young women trapped in his home for a decade get more and more abhorrent.
Knight “stated that he starved her for at least 2 weeks, then he repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried,” the initial police report states.
But when another captive was pregnant, the situation was different.
When Amanda Berry went into labor, Castro ordered Knight to deliver the 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.
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.
The latest accounts stunned authorities and the public.
“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.
A decade-long nightmare
Berry, Knight and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus were held captive in a 1,400-square-foot home in one of Cleveland’s oldest neighborhoods. They went outside only twice — and just “briefly” at that, Cleveland public safety director Martin Flask said.
According to the initial incident report, all three said that Castro chained them up in the basement, but later freed them from the chains and allowed them to live upstairs on the second floor.
More often, 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.
Years went by.
In that time, the women saw their parents on television at vigils held for them, according to the law enforcement source. They got emotional, knowing their loved ones were looking for them.
And in time, Knight and DeJesus “succumbed” to “their reality,” the law enforcement source said.
But “something must have clicked” for Berry on Monday evening, and the 27-year-old staged a daring escape, Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.
With the help of Castro’s neighbors Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero, Berry freed herself, her 6-year-old daughter and the two other women.
The three women found in Castro’s home are back with family.
“I knew my daughter was out there alive,” said Felix DeJesus, Gina’s father, moments after she arrived at a family home Wednesday. “I knew she needed me, and I never gave up.”
Castro, meanwhile, is behind bars. He’ll be arraigned Thursday morning on four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, said Victor Perez, chief assistant prosecutor for the city of Cleveland.
How the ordeal started
Knight was 21 on August 22, 2002, when Castro lured her into his vehicle along Cleveland’s Lorain Avenue, according to charging documents. Castro took her back to his home on Seymour Avenue, about three miles away, and didn’t let her go.
Knight was sexually assaulted multiple times, the documents state. Soon, others joined her
Berry experienced a similar nightmare on April 21, 2003 — the eve of her 17th birthday. While walking home from her job at Burger King that night, Castro told her his son also worked at Burger King and offered her a ride home, the initial police report states.
Almost exactly a year later, they were joined by DeJesus — then 14 years old.
They remained in that hell until Monday evening, when Berry screamed for help. Hearing her cries, Ramsey and Cordero kicked in a door to help her escape.
According to Cordero, Berry’s 6-year-old daughter ran out of the house too, wearing only a diaper and a sullied shirt. Police are conducting a DNA test to determine the child’s paternity.
“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” the victim begged a 911 operator from Ramsey’s house. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”
Knight and DeJesus didn’t run out of the house with Berry, even though they could have, said the law enforcement source with direct knowledge of the case. The source described the Knight and DeJesus as brainwashed and fearful.
He ‘kept everybody at a distance’
So how did this all happen in an urban neighborhood? Did Castro — a former school bus driver described by a bandmate as an upbeat and outgoing musician — keep such a secret not only from his neighbors, but also his family, as police allege?
Soon after the three women were found, Castro and two brothers who were with him were taken into custody.
Over the next two days, authorities “found no facts to link” Onil and Pedro Castro to the kidnappings, though both brothers will appear in Cleveland Municipal Court on Thursday for outstanding warrants on unrelated misdemeanor cases.
“Ariel kept everybody at a distance,” said Tomba, the deputy police chief.
Castro has been talking to investigators since Tuesday, as have the three young women police say he kidnapped and raped.
Law enforcement personnel have been sifting through Castro’s Seymour Avenue home — which Tomba said was in “disarray” — and removed more than 200 items that they hope will let them piece together what happened.
Additionally, FBI agents searched a boarded-up home two doors down after obtaining information over the past few days tying that building to the case, the deputy police chief said.
Did anyone drop the ball?
As they investigate, authorities are facing scrutiny over whether the nightmare could have been prevented or stopped much earlier.
Some neighbors said they had contacted police about suspicious activity on Castro’s property, such as reports of screaming and naked women in his backyard. But authorities say they never got any such calls.
In fact, police say they had been to Castro’s house only twice — once after he called about a fight on his street, and once to investigate an incident in which he was accused of leaving a child alone on a bus. No one answered at the home, and investigators later interviewed him elsewhere, police said.
According to court documents from 2005, 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. A judge granted a protection order but lifted it three months later.
Tomba said he doesn’t think authorities dropped the ball.
“I’m just very, very confident (that) law enforcement officers … checked every single lead, and if there was one bit of evidence, (they would have) followed it up very, very aggressively,” he said.
“In hindsight, we may find out that maybe we did, but that’s going to be in hindsight.”AlertMe