In the riveting case of three kidnapped women in Cleveland, Ohio, who escaped their captor after almost a decade of imprisonment, the victims were reunited with their families on Wednesday and the authorities formally charged prime suspect Ariel Castro (52) with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.
The women — Amanda Berry (27), Gina De Jesus (23) and Michelle Knight (32) — escaped from the barricaded home said to belong to Castro, after a neighbour, Charles Ramsey, heard screams from Ms. Berry and assisted her in escaping from the home.Under the intense glare of the media, Ms. DeJesus and Ms. Berry rejoined their families; Ms. Berry was accompanied by a six-year-old child, said to be her daughter Jocelyn. Reports said the child was born in captivity and that Ms. Knight had helped deliver the baby.
An unconfirmed report allegedly leaked by a police source said Ms. Knight was forced to give Ms. Berry and her newborn daughter CPR after Castro “threatened to kill them... if the baby died”. The report also said the women were held captive in chains for most of their time at the house.
Chilling details of the treatment meted out to the women during their captivity continued to emerge. Police said Castro had waived his right to remain silent and “has been talking extensively”. Authorities had also interviewed the three women.
While police and local authorities close to the case confirmed earlier that the women were “bound with ropes and chains”, and that they were subjected to “prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages”, they did not provide details.
Prosecutors however noted that there was no evidence that Castro’s two brothers, Pedro (54) and Onil (50), arrested at the same time, were directly involved in the crime, though the two were held on “outstanding warrants for separate misdemeanour cases”.
However more details about Castro’s violent history also surfaced. Reports said that Castro locked his wife Grimilda Figueroa, who reportedly died of a brain tumour last year, in a wooden box and “viciously beat her as part of a two-decade campaign of violence and death threats”, her family alleged. Meanwhile a controversy over race engulfed the drama surrounding the women’s escape after Mr. Ramsey, who is African-American, said in a media interview “Bro, I knew something was wrong when a little pretty white girl ran into a black man’s arms... Something is wrong here. Dead giveaway... Either she’s homeless, or she’s got problems. That’s the only reason she’d run to a black man.”