Ariel Castro charged with kidnapping, rape of three Cleveland women

NOTE: This article contains disturbing content that may be triggering for some readers.

By Yamiche Alcindor, Donna Leinwand Leger and Gary Strauss

School bus driver charged with rape, kidnapping of three young women who were held captive for years at his west Cleveland home.

CLEVELAND -- The man at whose home three women were found after a decade of captivity was charged Wednesday with multiple counts of kidnapping and rape.

Ariel Castro, 52, faces three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping involving victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. The three vanished between 2002 and 2004. Castro was also charged with kidnapping in connection with Berry's six-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, who was also found at the home Monday and is believed to be Castro's child.

A police report obtained by Cleveland TV station WKYC  paints a chilling portrait of the women's ordeal, including beatings, chained confinement and death threats. It also alleges that Castro impregnated Knight five times, then punched her in the stomach until she miscarried. Castro, the report said, also forced Knight to deliver Berry's baby in a plastic kiddie pool and threatened to murder Knight if the newborn died.

Castro is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Additional charges against the former school bus driver could be filed at a later date.

The felony charges against Castro came 48 hours after Berry - now 27 - made a frantic flight from Castro's Seymour Avenue home early Monday evening. Authorities say that may have been the first opportunity any of the victims had to escape. According to the police report, Berry told police that Castro forgot to lock the "big inside door" of the home when when he left Monday to a nearby McDonald's.

The report said Castro lured the victims into his car on separate occasions and kept their presence in his west Cleveland home a secret for more than a decade. All three were chained up in the basement, but Castro eventually freed them to live on the second floor.

The women had been outside Castro's home just twice since their kidnapping, but kept just steps away at a detached garage on the property. Even for those brief moments outside, Castro allegedly forced the women to disguise themselves in hats, wigs and sunglasses, Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

Castro's brothers, Pedro and Onil, were also arrested Monday. But Victor Perez, chief deputy prosecutor for Cleveland, said there is no evidence that either brother - who did not live at Ariel Castro's home - were involved in any crimes against the women or Berry's daughter. "Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Tomba said."you didn't go into his house. You called before you came over. He ran the show. he was the big bulky."

Pedro and Onil face Thursday court hearings on outstanding misdemeanor warrants, Perez said.

Earlier Wednesday, Berry and DeJesus returned to their Cleveland homes, where they were surrounded by family and friends. Knight was still in a Cleveland hospital.

DeJesus, wearing a lime green hoodie, stepped from a car, and gave a thumbs up as the crowd chanted "Gina! Gina!" A woman then pulled her into a tight embrace and hustled her inside through a forest of flowers and balloons.

Nancy Ruiz, DeJesus' mother, thanked those who had helped the family over the past nine years. "Even the ones that doubted, I want to thank them the most," she said. "They're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there."

Gina's aunt, Sandra Ruiz, called on friends, relatives and the media "to give us time and privacy to heal."

"There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel with the return of our family member, Gina," she said. "And now Amanda Berry, the daughter, and Michelle Knight, who is our family also.''

Ruiz also called on the community to help search for Ashley Summers, another young woman from the area who went missing at the age of 14 in 2007.

Earlier, Berry arrived at her sister's home accompanied by the daughter police believe was fathered by Castro.

They were also greeted by a porch covered by balloons, flowers, teddy bears and a huge sign proclaiming : "Welcome home, Amanda."

It was her first sight of the modest, two-story home since she disappeared on April 21, 2003 — a day before her 17th birthday — after telling her sister she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King. Berry's mother, Louwana Miller, never gave up hope that her daughter would surface. But she died in 2006.

A tearful Beth Serrano, Berry's sister, spoke briefly to reporters in front of the house to thank the public and the news media for their support and to request privacy for the family "until we are ready to make our statements."

Berry, 27, DeJesus, 23, and Knight, 32, were freed after Berry's screams for help alerted a neighbor, who helped free her. After she called 911 from a borrowed cellphone, police arrived at Castro's home, where they checked the basement and then walked to the second floor.

The police report said Knight threw herself into the arms of an officer. When he put Knight down, Dejus jumped into his arms.

Berry, who arrived home in a convoy escorted by police, had been with her family at an undisclosed location since her rescue. "She wants to come home to be with her sister," Cleveland Police 1st District Cmdr. Thomas McCartney said moments before her arrival.

"What a relief to us all as a community that they are finally home and thank God that they are alive," he said.

Police have said they were delaying any intense debriefing of the victims until they adjust to their unexpected freedom.

Police Chief Michael McGrath said Wednesday that while they were held captive, the three young women had been "bound and there were chains and ropes in the hall."

McGrath told NBC's Savannah Guthrie that the three women's physical condition was "very good considering the circumstances."

McGrath said that the suspects in the case are "talking" but would not say if they have confessed to the alleged abduction and years of sexual abuse of the three women.

Cleveland City councilman Brian Cummins, who spoke to authorities about the case, said the three women were subjected to sexual abuse for a prolonged period and had several miscarriages.

The women and child were freed after a neighbor, alerted to Berry's screams, rushed over to the house, and kicked in the lower part of the door. Berry, dressed in pajamas and sandals, tearfully used a borrowed cellphone to call 911.

"I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm free now," Berry told the dispatcher.

Police arrived within minutes and freed the others.

Castro allegedly forced all three women to have sex, resulting in up to five pregnancies, according to a report by Cleveland's WKYC-TV. The station, quoting unnamed law enforcement sources, reported that the the women were also subjected to beatings while they were pregnant, with several fetuses not surviving. Police did not publicly confirm the report.

Berry disappeared in disappeared in 2003. DeJesus, then 14, went missing in 2004 on her way home from school. Knight, then 20, disappeared in August 2002. She was last seen at her cousin's home.

Separately, information has surfaced on Ariel Castro's relationship with Grimilda Figueroa, mother of four of his children. In 2005, Figueroa got a temporary protective order against Castro after she complained that he broken her nose, ribs, dislocated her shoulder and knocked out her tooth.

Castro threatened multiple times to kill her and a daughter, Figueroa's attorney wrote on the petition. Since 1997, Figueroa had sole custody of the children fathered by Castro - Ariel, Angie, Emily and Arlene. They lived with her full time in a house on Liberty Avenue in Cleveland. But, the attorney wrote, Castro "frequently abducts daughters and keeps them from mother."

The protective order that barred Castro from coming near her or the children noted that Castro has access to firearms and deputies attempting to enforce the order should "proceed with caution."

Castro challenged the order and when Figueroa's attorney was unable to appear at a November hearing, the judge dissolved the protective order on Nov. 21, 2005.

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