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Ariel Castro, who kept three women captive at his Cleveland home, should not have been taken off suicide watch in June before his conviction, his lawyer has said.

A post-mortem examination found Ariel Castro, 53, hanged himself in his cell, a month after being sentenced to life in jail.

“There’s still an obligation to prevent our inmates from committing suicide,” Ariel Castro’s lawyer Craig Weintraub said.

Ariel Castro held Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry in chains at his Cleveland home for about a decade until May. He raped them repeatedly.

During his trial, Ariel Castro was taken off suicide watch after authorities determined he was not at risk of taking his own life.

On July 26, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to over 900 separate charges, in a deal that protected him from the death penalty.

Ariel Castro was sentenced on August 1 to life imprisonment without parole plus 1,000 years.

Ariel Castro was taken off suicide watch after authorities determined he was not at risk of taking his own life

Ariel Castro was taken off suicide watch after authorities determined he was not at risk of taking his own life

He hanged himself on September 3 in his isolation cell in Orient, Ohio.

The prosecutor who tried Ariel Castro called him a “coward” unable to withstand “a small portion” of what he had inflicted.

But Craig Weintraub told Cleveland newspaper the Plain Dealer: “He’s still a human being. This is still a civilized society.”

Prison authorities denied Ariel Castro permission to receive independent mental counselling, even though he had previously contemplated suicide and was likely to suffer depression after his life sentence, Craig Weintraub told Reuters news agency.

“We were never provided any explanation” for being denied independent mental health care, he said.

“We don’t know what the rationale was, to take him off suicide watch.”

Ariel Castro was placed in protective custody because of his notoriety. His cell was checked every 30 minutes.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said its mental health staff found that Ariel Castro did not need to be placed on suicide watch, which would have meant a guard checked on him every 15 minutes, AFP news agency reports.

“Our… mental health staff determined this,” said spokeswoman Ricky Seyfang.

“Suicide watch was not required for him.”

The department said it would review the death and publish findings within a month.

The former school bus driver abducted Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, from the Cleveland streets between 2002 and 2004.

The three women escaped from Ariel Castro’s home on May 6.

In an interview last month after his conviction, Ariel Castro’s lawyers said that he fit the profile of someone with a sociopathic disorder.

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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro has died after being found hanging in his cell.

Prison officials said Ariel Castro, 53, died in hospital late on Tuesday, after prison medical staff failed to revive him.

Ariel Castro held three women against their will for about a decade until May this year. He kept his victims chained up and raped them.

He was sentenced on August 1st to life imprisonment without parole plus 1,000 years. His house was demolished.

The former school bus driver abducted Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, from the Cleveland streets between 2002 and 2004.

A spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, JoEllen Smith, said: “He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals.

“Upon finding inmate Castro, prison medical staff began performing life saving measures. Shortly after he was transported to [the prison medical facility] where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 pm.”

“A thorough review of this incident is under way,” she added.

Ariel Castro was placed in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, but was not on suicide watch.

Gina DeJesus was 14 years old when she disappeared. Amanda Berry was 16, and Michelle Knight, 21. Ariel Castro also fathered a child with Amanda Berry, who was rescued after she escaped from the house and contacted police.

Ariel Castro has died after being found hanging in his cell

Ariel Castro has died after being found hanging in his cell

Ariel Castro was arrested the same day. He was charged with multiple counts of kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder.

At his sentencing, Ariel Castro told the court: “I’m not a violent predator… I’m not a monster, I’m a normal person.

“I’m just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction.”

He said he never planned to abduct the women, but acted on the spur of the moment when he kidnapped his first victim. He said that he was “truly sorry” for what he had done.

But passing sentence, Judge Michael Russo told Castro there was no place in the world for people who enslave others.

Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to 937 charges related to the ordeal of his victims, including numerous rapes.

A deal with prosecutors spared him a possible death penalty for murder.

In a victim impact statement made to the sentencing court, Michelle Knight told how their captor went to church every Sunday, before coming home to “torture” the women.

“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” she said.

“You will face hell for eternity.

“From this moment on, I will not let you define me, or affect who I am. I will live on, you will die a little every day.”

Michelle Knight was the only victim to speak in person at the hearing.

Ariel Castro lured one of them into his home with the promise of a puppy, and enticed another by inviting her to meet his daughter.

The judge banned Ariel Castro from ever seeing the daughter Jocelyn, now six years old.

In an interview last month after his conviction, Ariel Castro’s lawyers said that he fitted the profile of someone with a sociopathic disorder. They expressed hope that researchers would study him for clues that could be used to stop other predators.

The three women escaped from Ariel Castro’s home on May 6, when Amanda Berry broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help.

The two other women were so frightened that at first they were reluctant to leave the house despite the presence of a large number of police officers.

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Matt Lauer has been denied an interview with recently convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro and turned away from the Ohio prison where Castro is being held.

NBC’s Matt Lauer traveled to Cleveland to conduct a jailhouse interview with Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for his crimes against Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Instead, Matt Lauer’s request was declined by Cuyahoga County Sheriff Frank Bova in no uncertain terms.

Scott Taylor, an investigative reporter for 19 Action News in Cleveland tweeted the news yesterday, writing: “@MLauer of @todayshow spotted at jail here in Cleveland asking for #ArielCastro interview. Sheriff Bova said NO.”

According to Scott Taylor, Sheriff Bova told him “I won’t allow it”, and that “an Ariel Castro interview from jail isn’t going to happen in Cleveland”.

Scott Taylor first tweeted news of Matt Lauer's failed Ariel Castro interview attempt

Scott Taylor first tweeted news of Matt Lauer’s failed Ariel Castro interview attempt

A spokesperson for Sheriff Bova said that the reason Lauer was denied the interview was because Ariel Castro was being moved to Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio.

“Matt Lauer arrived at the jail on Friday morning and his interview request was denied. Castro is leaving the building today and the interview was declined for security purposes,” she said.

A spokesperson for Ohio’s prisons department said Ariel Castro will be isolated from the greater prison population for his own safety at the beginning of his sentence due to the high profile nature of his case.

Ariel Castro’s lawyers struck a deal with prosecutors that spared him the death sentence but also spared his victims having to testify in court, pleading guilty to aggravated murder, kidnapping and rape on Thursday.

NBC’s Today show has declined to comment on the incident, but Twitter users are speculating about Matt Lauer’s interview techniques.

@LovinTheTribe wrote: “Did Castro agree to interview first? Was wondering why Lauer just showed up?”

According to Scott Taylor, the Today show had already secured the interview.

“MY SOURCE: @MLauer & @todayshow had green light for interview with #ArielCastro today but County Sheriff Frank Bova pulled the plug,” Scott Taylor wrote.

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Michelle Knight today visited Ariel Castro’s house, the place where she spent more than a decade in captivity being raped and beaten, and watched it being torn to the ground.

Carrying a bunch of yellow balloons when she arrived at 2207 Seymour Street in Cleveland, Ohio, just before 7 a.m. this morning, Michelle Knight handed them out to neighbors to thank them for their support.

They then released them together as a symbol of hope and solidarity.

Wearing a pair of rosary beads around her neck, Michelle Knight said a prayer and hugged representatives from the county prosecutor’s office as she was accompanied down the street by a small group of Guardian Angels.

Michelle Knight, who has become an advocate for missing children, told the crowd she wanted to be there today because no one was there for her when she was missing.

“Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know they are loved, we hear their cries, they are never forgotten in my heart,” Michelle Knight said.

“They are caterpillars waiting to be turned into butterflies.

“I want the people to know, including the mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope, and their child will come back.”

The balloons represented children who have been abducted but were never found, Michelle Knight said, and carried with them the simple message that “there is hope for everyone”.

The crowd who gathered at the house erupted into cheers as the crane came smashing down on the roof.

Gina DeJesus’ aunt Peggy Arida was in the cab of the crane and took the first swing. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were not there.

Michelle Knight said organizers asked the families if someone wanted to begin the demolition and she agreed to do it, “because I had so much anger inside me. I wanted to do it. It felt great. It felt like a house of horrors coming down”.

Michelle Knight visited Ariel Castro’s house and watched it being torn to the ground

Michelle Knight visited Ariel Castro’s house and watched it being torn to the ground

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said at a press conference outside the home: “For ten years this house was a secret prison of a psychopath but after today it will be gone.

“He’s going to sit in the bowels of prison now the rest of his life, the rest of his days, in fear himself of the other prisoners.”

Officials will grind Ariel Castro’s house to dust to make the place where unimaginable tortures took place completely disappear.

Authorities revealed they will be using the $22,000 found in Ariel Castro’s washing machine to tear down the house and put a symbol of hope in its place.

The money was offered to the girls but they said they wanted it to go to the neighborhood.

The house was torn down as part of a plea deal that spared Ariel Castro from a possible death sentence.

Ariel Castro had such an emotional attachment to the home that he broke down in tears when he had to sign over the property deed, ABC reports, saying it was wrong to tear it down because he had so many happy memories there.

His family members were allowed to take approved personal items from the home on Monday.  Workers emptied the house of furniture and other belongings Tuesday.

The girls – and the community – will decide what to put at the spot once it is torn down.

The razing comes less than a week after Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, for holding Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry captive in his home on Cleveland’s west side.

A steady stream of on-lookers drove by the house before Cleveland police blocked off the street to traffic.

Google had already “disappeared” the house on its Street View features since yesterday. Searches for the address now show just a blurred box instead of the house.

The city of Cleveland seized the home and donated it to the Cuyahoga Land Bank, a non-profit organization that fights urban blight in the city.

The Land Bank has not revealed its plans for the property.

Felix DeJesus said he and his wife and daughter Gina will watch the house come down.

“Thank God it will be over with. And tomorrow I will be there to see this house come down,” he told WOIO-TV.

On July 26, Ariel Castro – a former elementary school bus driver – pleaded guilty to more than 900 counts of kidnapping, rape and assault and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Pictures emerged from inside the home of chains and restraints and makeshift alarms that he used to keep the young women bent to his sadistic will.

Neighbors are happy to see the house torn down.

“I want things to be like it were, quiet and peaceful. But to see that house go down it really will be a relief because I am so sick and tired of looking at it,” Henrietta Bell told the Cleveland TV station.

The land bank’s president, Gus Frangos said that the organization is trying to keep away scavengers who might try to sell the rubble as what is known as “murderabilia”.

In 2011, a website that sells items related to high-profile crimes put on sale 1-gram packages of soil from the home of Cleveland serial killer Anthony Sowell before a city agency razed the house.

Anthony Sowell was convicted that year of killing 11 women and was sentenced to death. His case is under appeal.

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Ariel Castro will spend his immediate prison future in isolation for his own safety, according to prison officials.

On Friday kidnapper Ariel Castro was transferred from a Cleveland jail to the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, 24 miles away.

It is described as a clearinghouse for Ohio inmates and will be his residence until his longer term home is determined.

Ariel Castro will spend his immediate prison future in isolation for his own safety

Ariel Castro will spend his immediate prison future in isolation for his own safety

Ariel Castro, 53, can expect a bleak existence with a lot of time to ponder on his actions as his only contact will be guards and the inmates who will bring his meals.

As a high profile criminal, Ariel Castro will be a target for other inmates and so won’t be allowed to mix with the general prison population.

Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith described Ariel Castro as “calm and cooperative” during Friday’s transfer.

Ariel Castro was strip-searched, photographed, fingerprinted and checked for gang markings. In the coming days he will undergo medical and mental health evaluations.

Ultimately Ariel Castro is expected to end up in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, a maximum-security lockup about an hour and a half away from Cincinnati.

On August 1, an unrepentant Ariel Castro apologized for holding his three victims, Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who were hostage over a decade.

Sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, Ariel Castro declared to the Cleveland court room he was “not a monster”.

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Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who were held captive and abused in Ariel Castro’s home for a decade, have returned to the “House of Horrors” in an extraordinary show of bravery.

On Friday morning, Michelle Knight visited to Ariel Castro’s home, where she was held from August 2002 until her escape on May 6, so that she could thank neighbors for their support.

Amanda Berry and her father also returned to the home on Tuesday to thank those who helped her when she fled for safety, and Gina DeJesus also visited Seymour Street this week, 19ActionNews reported.

Michelle Knight has returned to Ariel Castro’s home on Seymour Avenue to thank neighbors for their support

Michelle Knight has returned to Ariel Castro’s home on Seymour Avenue to thank neighbors for their support

Michelle Knight’s visit came as it emerged her captor will start his term – a life sentence plus 1,000 years – isolated from other inmates.

A spokeswoman for Ohio’s prisons department said Ariel Castro won’t go into general population once he enters the state’s prison system. She says it’s for his own protection because of his high profile.

At his sentencing on Thursday, Michelle Knight told Ariel Castro: “You took 11 years of my life away, but now I have it back. I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”

As part of Ariel Castro’s plea agreement, the Seymour Avenue house will be torn down in the near future.

Ariel Castro, 53, was sentenced after pleading guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping, rape and murder.

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Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed on Wednesday that Ariel Castro, who chained his captives and fed them only one meal a day, “admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct” but “remains remorseless for his actions”.

The memorandum says many of the specific charges in Ariel Castro’s indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.

“The entries speak of forced s**ual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war … of being treated like an animal,” it says.

The sentencing could take up to four hours, court officials said, with Ariel Castro, his attorneys, his victims and prosecutors getting a chance to speak.

The legal team representing the women’s interests declined to comment in advance on whether they would testify or send statements to the court.

In the court filing, Tim McGinty offered new details of Ariel Castro’s treatment of the women, who he said were kept “in a state of powerlessness” through physical and psychological violence.

“He made them believe that their physical survival depended on him, and he threatened to end their lives if they did not comply with his every demand,” Tim McGinty said.

Ariel Castro, 53, lured Michelle Knight into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and tricked Gina DeJesus by saying she could see his daughter, Tim McGinty said.

He chained his captives by their ankles, fed them only one meal a day and provided plastic toilets in their bedrooms that were infrequently emptied, the filing said.

Ariel Castro menaced them with a gun, threatened them with tales of other captives, some of whom hadn’t made it home, and at one point locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days while he had a visitor.

The captor claimed he didn’t have an exit strategy from his complicated double life and finally gave the women a chance to escape by leaving a door unlocked, the court filing said.

The women, each kidnapped separately when they accepted a ride from Ariel Castro on Cleveland’s blue-collar west side, quickly escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out the door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

There was no comment from Ariel Castro’s defense team on the eve of sentencing.

Other horrific details of the women’s ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement or a bedroom heater or inside a van, with one woman forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, having a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.

Ariel Castro is sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years

Ariel Castro is sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years

Ariel Castro repeatedly starved and beat Michelle Knight each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced Michelle Knight on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with Amanda Berry on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Ariel Castro raped Michelle Knight.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to prohibit Ariel Castro from ever seeing his daughter, now six.

Tim McGinty says experts will also discuss how Ariel Castro was able to keep the women captive for so long.

Amanda Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house.

The third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

The sentencing memorandum was compiled from a wealth of evidence including diaries kept by the three young women which paint a horrifying picture of the physical and psychological torture they were forced to endure.

In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors describe the horrific conditions the women endured. The women’s diaries, they say, “document abuse and life as a captive”.

It also includes an evaluation by a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University who describes the emotional toll that the ten years of captivity had on the women.

“He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,” wrote Dr. Frank Ochberg.

Ariel Castro told the women he had had other victims, that some of whom had made it home and others who had not.

“These and other threats had the effect of terrifying the victims into subservience,” Dr. Frank Ochberg explained.

He added: “Castro hurt each of the three young women that he captured and confined in ways that create lasting wounds. He terrified them.

“The body responds to terror long afterward with uncontrollable visions, smells, sounds and sensations. These are called trauma memories and they are unlike ordinary memory. They come at night in the form of nightmares.”

In his evaluation, Dr. Frank Ochberg wrote that Michell Knight – who was kidnapped first after Ariel Castro promised to give her a puppy for her son – suffered “the longest and most severely”.

Ariel Castro has admitted that on one occasion Michelle Knight told him she may be pregnant and he forced a termination by putting her on a tea-only diet for several days, made her perform “knee bends” and jumping jacks.

However, when Amanda Berry fell pregnant, Michelle Knight helped save the baby’s life as Ariel Castro threatened to kill her if the child did not survive.

“It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth. She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” wrote Dr. Frank Ochberg.

“At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and s**ual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”

The memorandum also describes how Ariel Castro controlled the movements of the women, keeping them in locked rooms and using physical restraints.

“There is only one bathroom in the house, on the first floor. The Defendant would not allow the victims downstairs to use the bathroom. They only had access to plastic toilets in the bedrooms. They were emptied infrequently.”

The document adds: “He controlled the temperature and the inflow of food and drink. He used the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques.”

At one point during 2005 the three women were kept physically restrained in a vehicle in a garage for three days while the defendant had a visitor staying.

Amanda Berry’s diary was addressed to her mother, and then after her mom died, she “wrote to her mother in heaven, seeking to soothe her” and praying for deliverance and the health of her daughter who Ariel Castro fathered.

The diaries show how “the victims had to watch the rest of the world turn as they were held in captivity”.

“Holidays, world events, and even the passing of Ms Berry’s mother were observed by them, removed from the outside world.”

The purpose of the memorandum is to help establish a record that will serve as justification for Ariel Castro’s sentence should it come under review in the future.

Ariel Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years.

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Michelle Knight, one of three women held in Cleveland horrors house for about a decade, has told their captor Ariel Castro will “face hell for eternity”, as he was jailed for life.

Michelle Knight, 32, wept as she delivered her victim impact statement before Ariel Castro.

Ariel Castro, a 53-year-old former school bus driver, who was imprisoned for life without parole, plus 1,000 years, told the court he was not a monster.

The court heard Ariel Castro kept his victims chained up and repeatedly raped them.

The captives, Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, were rescued in May after one of them escaped from the Cleveland home.

Passing sentence on Thursday, Judge Michael Russo told Ariel Castro there was no place in the world for people who enslave others.

In her statement, Michelle Knight told how their captor went to church every Sunday, before coming home to “torture” the women.

“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” she said.

“You will face hell for eternity.

“From this moment on, I will not let you define me, or affect who I am. I will live on, you will die a little every day.”

Michele Knight reads her statements during the sentencing of her accused kidnapper Ariel Castro at a court hearing in Cleveland

Michele Knight reads her statements during the sentencing of her accused kidnapper Ariel Castro at a court hearing in Cleveland

Michelle Knight was the only victim to speak at the hearing.

Ariel Castro then made a rambling statement to the court in which he blamed his s** addiction, his former wife and the FBI for not properly investigating the kidnappings.

The former bandsman continued: “To be a musician and to be a monster like you’re trying to say that I am – I don’t think I can handle that – I’m a happy person inside.”

“I’m just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction,” he said.

Ariel Castro said he never planned to abduct the women, but acted on the spur of the moment when he kidnapped his first victim.

While claiming that most of the s** with his victims had been “consensual”, Castro turned to their families and to Michelle Knight to say he was “truly sorry”.

“I just hope they find it in their hearts to forgive me,” he added.

The hearing earlier heard testimony from policewoman Barbara Johnson, one of the officers who found the women.

She said that as she and another officer searched the darkened house, she shone a flashlight on herself so the women could see they were really police.

But Gina DeJesus was initially too afraid to leave her room, she added.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to ban Ariel Castro from ever seeing his daughter Jocelyn, now six years old, whom he fathered with Amanda Berry.

Other details of the women’s ordeals have already emerged.

There are plans to demolish the Cleveland house where the three were held. They were rescued after Amanda Berry kicked open a door and alerted a neighbor.

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Pictures from inside Ariel Castro’s house were shown today in court as the Cleveland abductor is to be sentenced.

The detective in charge of the case described how Ariel Castro abducted the three women, took them to his home and immediately tied them in chains in the basement and raped them.

He put a motorbike helmet on each girl and left them in the dark basement overnight, Detective Andrew Harasimchuk said.

Dr. Frank Ochberg described to the court the long-term impact the continuous abuse will have on the victims.

He described their “terror-induced states of mind, defilement, dehumanization and how they were treated like animals and deprived of their sense of self and dignity”.

“They have life sentences. They will never be free of the damage done,” Dr. Frank Ochberg told the court.

FBI agent Andrew Burke said he had been familiar with Gina DeJesus’ and Amanda Berry’s disappearances prior to their discovery earlier this year.

He described the moment he saw the girls as “surreal” as they were so pale and malnourished.

“I’ll never forget it,” he said.

Pictures from inside Ariel Castro’s house were shown today in court as the Cleveland abductor is to be sentenced

Pictures from inside Ariel Castro’s house were shown today in court as the Cleveland abductor is to be sentenced

“It was surreal to me. I had been involved in the missing persons investigations for quite some time.”

Andrew Burke talked the court through pictures of inside the home, describing how the back door was equipped with an alarm, a bedspread separated the kitchen and living area, a porch swing obstructed a flight of stairs and a curtain was put over the stairs leading to the area where the women were held captive.

Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside with heavy closet doors and doorknobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks, he said. The house was divided in ways to make it more secure and to hide the existence of rooms, he said.

Pictures of dirty mattresses draped in chains were shown as Burke explained it was from the room Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight lived.

Authorities also found a “significant amount” of cash in a washing machine in the basement, the same room as the pole the women were chained to while he raped them.

On occasion, Ariel Castro would throw the money at the women after abusing them and require they pay him to pick up any special items for them when he left the house, the agent said.

He would also force them to hold a gun to his head and dare them to shoot him.

The letter written by Ariel Castro was found in his home and shown in court. It read “Confession and Details” at the top.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Detective Dave Jacobs said he talked with Ariel Castro a few days after the women escaped and that Castro said: “I knew what I did was wrong.”

Early in the hearing, Ariel Castro tried to apologize to the victims, but after speaking with the judge said he would do that later in the proceeding.

A picture of a handwritten letter was also shown, in which Ariel Castro described the horrible things he forced the women to endure when they were in captivity.

The accused arrived in court just after 9 a.m. shackled in his orange prison jumpsuit to learn his fate and come face-to-face with one of his victims for the first time since they were rescued.

Michelle Knight, who suffered for the longest and most severely, is expected to come face-to-face with Ariel Castro for the first time since she was rescued to speak about the horrific abuse.

Officer Barbara Johnson was the first to take the stand today. As one of the first responders to the “house of horrors” on Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, she described the girls as very pale, very thin and very scared when they found them.

She said: “Michelle Knight literally launched herself at another officer and kept repeating, <<You saved us, you saved us>>.”

Dr. Gerald Maloney, the emergency room doctor on duty when the three victims were taken to the hospital, described them as “very much emotionally fragile at the time” and said Michelle Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

He said Michelle Knight specifically was bruised and emaciated. Every witness described the girl’s as malnourished, pale and traumatized.

With the possibility of the death penalty for a forced miscarriage taken off the table, Ariel Castro stands to get life in prison plus 1,000 years today.

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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro appeared in court today to accept a plea deal under which he will serve a life sentence plus 1,000 years for the kidnap and rape of Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus.

Ariel Castro, 53, was said to have agreed to the deal – after initially pleading not guilty to all 977 counts against him – to spare him the death penalty. His previous not guilty pleas were withdrawn.

Under the offer, Ariel Castro will spend the rest of his life behind bars without the possibility of parole, meaning he will die in prison.

It also means his three victims Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus will not have to testify about their more than ten-year ordeal in front of a jury.

Speaking in court today, Ariel Castro said: “I said I was willing to work with the FBI and I would tell them everything.”

The judge asked him if he understood that he would die in prison and there would never be a possibility he would be released from prison.

Ariel Castro replied: “I do understand that and I said because of the s** crimes I knew I would have the book thrown at me.

“There are some things I do not comprehend because of my s**ual problems throughout the years. But I trust my lawyers and I understand my rights and the sentence.”

Ariel Castro appeared in court to accept a plea deal under which he will serve a life sentence

Ariel Castro appeared in court to accept a plea deal under which he will serve a life sentence

Offering some form of an explanation for his despicable crimes, Ariel Castro said: “I was a victim as a child and it just kept going.”

The judge cut him off and told him to save his story for his sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors said if evidence of additional crimes came to light, Ariel Castro could still be indicted on future charges that included the death penalty.

Ariel Castro’s lawyers have said for weeks that they would consider an agreement under which the former Cleveland school bus driver would plead guilty to some charges in return for his life.

He has been charged with 977 counts including kidnapping and repeated rape. He has also been charged with murder under a fetal homicide law for allegedly forcing one of the women to miscarry.

Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27 were freed from Ariel Castro’s home in a rundown area of Cleveland in May.

The house will be torn down, it was revealed this week.

Also freed was a six-year-old girl who, according to DNA evidence, was fathered by Ariel Castro with Amanda Berry during her captivity.

A grand jury on July 17 added 648 charges to a previous indictment against Ariel Castro and an $8 million bond was put in place.

The indictment against Ariel Castro alleges he repeatedly restrained the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van.

It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

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Gina DeJesus, the youngest of the three girls held captive in Cleveland by Ariel Castro, wants to go to the Prom and Valentine’s Dance that she missed out on when she was snatched off the street to be raped and chained up for more than a decade.

A close family friend said Gina DeJesus still views the world through the eyes of a 14-year-old and is determined to recreate some of the biggest events that other, normal teenagers enjoyed.

Meanwhile new details have emerged about her captivity and how alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro covered her head every time he allegedly raped her.

This was because Gina DeJesus was so young and was the best friend of Ariel Castro’s daughter when he allegedly snatched her off the street, according to the close family friend.

Ariel Castro knew Gina DeJesus’ family well and he felt “bothered” by her face but did not do the same to his other alleged victims, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry.

The sickening revelation gives a new insight into the challenges that Gina DeJesus and the other girls face on their long road to recovery.

Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – who was taken in by Gina’s family – are healing by having gone on a week long holiday to Puerto Rico, where the DeJesus’ are from.

Meanwhile, Amanda Berry has been relying on the support of friends but has endured fresh heartache upon learning her father John, who lives in Tennessee, is not well.

Gina DeJesus was only 14 when she vanished, Amanda Berry was 16 and Michelle Knight was 21.

They are now 23, 27 and 32 respectively.

Police have said Ariel Castro starved them and got Michelle Knight pregnant at least five times before punching her stomach until she miscarried.

He also fathered a child with Amanda Berry, a girl who is now six, and brainwashed them by pretending to leave the house and battering them if they tried to escape.

A family friend said: “Gina still has a lot of growing up to do.

“She has never grown up mentally, she’s still a 14-year-old little girl. 

“She was pulled away at that time. She never got a chance to go to the dances or the games or prom or the things that kids do. All the kids want the same thing, they missed out on anything.

“They never got a chance. Sweetest day, Valentine’s Day parties at school, homecomings.

“Amanda did all hers. Michelle was special needs so she didn’t get involved too much. Gina was only 14, she turned 14 the week before she went missing. She’s missed out.

“She has a look of… of a blank, a blankness to her eyes. She’s not really there, emotionally she’s not there.”

Gina DeJesus wants to go to the Prom and Valentine’s Dance that she missed out on when she was snatched off the street

Gina DeJesus wants to go to the Prom and Valentine’s Dance that she missed out on when she was snatched off the street

Another problem that Gina DeJesus faces is that her neck is “fused” because she was held in chains at an awkward angle for months on end as her bones developed.

This has given her restricted movement and doctors are now thought to be trying to rectify it, though the process will be hard to reverse.

One of the biggest challenges facing all three victims and their families as they readjust – especially Gina – is that they are no longer girls; they are grown women.

Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight spend their days with family and going to the park but they have to be supervised at all times, reflecting the strange limbo they inhabit between independence and a childlike reliance on their family, according to the family friend.

An added pain is that Ariel Castro knew the DeJesus family well before he allegedly kidnapped Gina and even turned up on rallies to help find her, handing out fliers and comforting her father.

Ariel Castro’s daughter Arlene, 22, was one of her best friends and one of the last people to see her alive when she vanished whilst walking home from school in 2004.

According to Ariel Castro’s son Anthony, he chose Gina DeJesus as a victim because of her friendship with Arlene.

All this would apparently weigh on Ariel Castro’s mind when he was allegedly raping Gina DeJesus.

The family friend said: “Gina told her family that when Castro would have s** with her he would cover up her face.

“Because they were friends, with the family. He was friends with her family when she went missing. It bothered him, and she was so young.

“He’s a liar. You’re friends with the family and you can’t she was 14 when she went to school with your daughter? Come on. Best friends with your daughter and you don’t know.

“It was just her he covered up her face. He knew what he was doing.”

The psychological scars will no doubt run deep for all three girls.

The family friend said: “I know that somewhere deep in Gina’s heart in all these year they trusted this man to take care of them.

“They became accustomed to having him around and they miss him. I’m hoping it’s not that way but that’s not normally the case when they’ve been gone this long.

“With Michelle and Amanda I can’t say as much as there. With Gina, that’s all she knows. Think about it, that’s all she knows. In a way I hope she never gets into a relationship at all.

“I hope that it didn’t affect her so she gets in an abusive relationship.

“Mentally Georgina is fine but she will never get over this. It’s always going to be in the back of her mind.”

Since the girls emerged from Ariel Castro’s house on May 6, the effect on their families has been extraordinary.

Gin DeJesus’ mother Nancy Ruiz looks younger than before when she was weighed down with worry for her daughter. She is also eating again, something she stopped doing regularly before.

Her father Felix DeJesus is returning to his old self too, much to the delight of his family.

The process with Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight however will take a lot longer.

The family friend said: “The family doesn’t ask them absolutely any questions. When the girls want to talk they talk. They don’t bother the girls with what happened.

“They don’t ask the girls nothing. The girls don’t talk about what happened and they don’t question the girls about what happened.

“It will come out when they are ready about what happened in that house. Even in the police department…it was ten years for four hours of an interview.

“You can’t bring up ten years of what happened to you. You can almost remember every day of the beatings, every day of whatever.”

On Tuesday the three kidnap victims released a video to thank everyone who supported them. It marked the first on-camera appearance since they were rescued from the clutches of Ariel Castro.

Gina DeJesus speaks only one line in the video. When asked by a man behind the camera what she would like to say to the people who contributed to the Cleveland Courage fund, she responds: “I would say thank you for the support.”

Her mother and father then speak on her behalf through the rest.

Ariel Castro, 52, a former school bus driver, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment ahead of his trial which is due to start at the beginning of next month.

He is also charged with aggravated murder of a fetus for his treatment of Michelle Knight, for which he could face the death penalty.

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Michelle Knight has reportedly rejected all attempts by her mother for an emotional reunion after 11 years in captivity in the Cleveland horror house.

More than two months after she was rescued from Ariel Castro’s house, Michelle Knight, 32, has not yet spoken to her mother, according to Mail Online.

Michelle Knight has not replied to a single card or letter sent by her mother Barbara Knight and has even refused to see her 10-year-old sister, a family friend told the website.

Such is the gulf between mother and daughter that Barbara Knight had no idea Michelle had made a video for her first public appearance and statement about her ordeal.

Michelle Knight’s mother, who lives in South Florida, only found out when a family friend told her about the short video in which Michelle talks about going to “hell and back”.

The family friend said Barbara Knight is “very hurt” that her daughter has refused to see her – or even speak with her on the phone.

“Barbara is hurt. She is very hurt. All she wants to do is see and speak to her daughter. She wants her youngest daughter Katie to meet Michelle,” said the friend.

“She has sent lots of letters and cards. Presumably they are being given to Michelle but she has not had a single word from her. She has tried repeatedly to make contact, but has heard nothing back. It is very sad.

“It is hurting her. She is her mother and never gave up hope that she was alive.”

Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002, is believed to have suffered most at the hands of her alleged kidnapper, 52-year-old Ariel Castro.

She was 21 when she was taken off the street in August 2002 and little was made of her disappearance.

Michelle Knight has rejected all attempts by her mother for an emotional reunion after 11 years in captivity in Ariel Castro’s house

Michelle Knight has rejected all attempts by her mother for an emotional reunion after 11 years in captivity in Ariel Castro’s house

Her family told police that she had run away after her young son was taken from her by the Ohio Department of Family Services.

As the oldest of the three girls held captive at Castro’s home in Cleveland, Ohio, for over a decade, Michelle Knight was repeatedly raped, according to authorities.

Court documents have revealed she fell pregnant several times but miscarried after being beaten and starved.

Michelle Knight was also forced to deliver Ariel Castro’s daughter by Amanda Berry – who also went missing in 2003 aged 17 on her way home from a part time job at a Burger King restaurant.

While Amanda Berry, now 27, and Gina DeJesus, now 23, had emotional reunions with their family in the days after being freed, Michelle Knight said she did not want to see her mother.

Barbara Knight flew from her home in Naples, Florida, to Cleveland in the hope of being reunited with her daughter, even going to the hospital where she was being cared for.

However, Michelle Knight refused to see her mother and told authorities to send her away.

“Barbara was very hurt. She had taken her 10-year-old daughter Katie to Cleveland so that she could meet her sister. After a week she had to send Katie back to Naples so she could go back to school,” the family friend said.

“All Barbara wants is to see Michelle. Yes, there were things that went on in the past but she wants to move on and move forward.”

The family friend said Barbara Knight had also been hurt by accusations made by other family members that she was a bad mother.

She came in for public criticism after she revealed in May that she did not have a photo of her daughter Michelle.

“Barbara knows the truth and as a friend for over nine years I know she is not a bad mother.”

“When Michelle went missing she was upset about having her child taken into care. Barbara doesn’t talk about that and what went on, but I can tell you she is a great mother,” the friend said.

The friend also revealed that Barbara Knight had turned down several big money offers from TV networks to talk about her daughter.

“Barbara is not interested in money. All she wants is to be reunited with her daughter. When she is ready to talk it will be on her terms,” the friend said.

Michelle Knight spoke in a halting voice in the video released by a Cleveland-based public relations firm primarily so they could thanks family and supporters.

She said in the video that she is building a “brand new life”.

“I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high,” Michelle Knight said, reading from a prepared statement.

“I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don’t want to be consumed by hatred.”

Kathy Joseph, Michelle Knight’s attorney, said in a statement that the three women wanted to “say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed”.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus could come face to face with their alleged captor next month when he stands trial on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross s***al imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools, to which Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty.

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Cleveland kidnap victim Michelle Knight has broken her public silence to bravely face the cameras for the first time since her rescue from the house of horrors in May in a recent video released on YouTube.

Michelle Knight’s captor Ariel Castro is accused of starved and punching her until she miscarried during her decade-long ordeal.

But Michelle Knight, now 32, sought to reassure the public saying: “I want everyone to know I’m doing just fine.”

She admitted in the video released onto YouTube on Monday that she had been “through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face”.

A smiling Michelle Knight spoke directly into the camera said: “I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation.”

It was not even known that Michelle Knight had been kidnapped until she was found in Ariel Castro’s home on Seymour Avenue on May 6.

“I don’t want to be consumed by hatred. With that being said, we need to take a leap of faith and know that God is in control.”

Appearing alongside Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who Michelle Knight refers to her as “her best friends”, the three women each appeared separately in the three-minute, 33-second clip, as they thanked those who helped them and to request their privacy be respected.

All three women appear healthy and flashed their warm smiles to the camera.

The set-up interviews, were recorded on July 2 and filmed at the law offices of Jones Day in Cleveland, Ohio and put together pro bono by PR firm Hennes Paynter Communications.

Frequently referring to her faith during her brief statement, Michelle Knight expressed her dearest wish to now help others who have been through similar horrific ordeals of captivity.

“To know that there is someone out there to lean on and to talk to,” she said.

“Thank you for all your prayers. I’m looking forward to my brand new life.”

Michelle Knight has broken her public silence to bravely face the cameras for the first time since her rescue from the house of horrors in May

Michelle Knight has broken her public silence to bravely face the cameras for the first time since her rescue from the house of horrors in May

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight broke their combined public silence in the video posted late on Monday evening, saying the encouragement of family, friends and the public has enabled them to restart their lives.

The captor, former bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment that includes charges of kidnapping and rape – alleging he kidnapped the women off the streets between 2002 and 2004 and held them captive in his two-story home.

Ariel Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Amanda Berry and is accused of starving and punching Michelle Knight, causing her to miscarry – for which is facing the charge of aggravated murder of a fetus – which could carry the death penalty.

He was arrested on May 6th, shortly after Amanda Berry broke through a door at the home and yelled to neighbors for help.

Amanda Berry was 16 when she disappeared on April 21st, 2003. Gina DeJesus was 14 when she went missing in 2004.

Michelle Knight was the first to vanish in 2002 at age 20.

Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Michelle Knight, said in a statement that the three women wanted to “say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed”.

She said they’re being recognized in public, “so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages”.

James Wooley, attorney for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Michelle Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they’ve been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.

Released from hospital five days after Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight has by all accounts been staying with DeJesus’ family because of her fractious relationship with her own.

When Michelle Knight finally left hospital in mid-May, she thanked the public for their support and the fund created to aid the victims.

A hospital statement said: “Michelle Knight is in good spirits and would like the community to know that she is extremely grateful for the outpouring of flowers and gifts.

“She is especially thankful for the Cleveland Courage Fund. She asks that everyone please continue to respect her privacy at this time.”

It was revealed Michelle Knight is reportedly suffering hearing loss and facial bone damage after years of vicious beatings to her head.

Michelle Knight was 20 when she was taken off the street in 2002 and little was made of her disappearance.

Her family told police that she had run away after her young child was taken from her by the Ohio Department of Family Services.

Action News19 reported in May that Michelle Knight’s mother, Barbara returned to Cleveland after she moved to Naples, Florida, but that Michelle refused to allow her mother to see her.

“I just wish that my daughter would reach out and let me know that she’s there… She’s probably angry at the world because she thought she would never be found but thank God that somebody did,” said Michelle Knight’s mother.

“I don’t want her to think that I forgot about her… Hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did – I hope it heals because I really want to take her back to Florida with me.”

It is still not clear if mother and daughter have reunited.

It has been claimed that Michelle Knight requires facial reconstruction surgery to repair the damage of repeated beatings.

Michelle Knight was the first of the three victims to be abducted. She was last seen at a cousin’s house near West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue in Cleveland in 2002.

But her disappearance did not receive much publicity as she was classed as a runaway and her name was taken off the missing person’s database just 15 months later.

In the aftermath of her rescue it also emerged that Michelle Knight was gang-raped and impregnated in junior high – a year before she suffered more than ten years of abuse under a kidnapper.

Michelle Knight’s mother also said at the time of her rescue that she was looking forward to being reunited with her son, now 13, after she left hospital.

If you want to help Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight to recover, you can donate to help the victims at the Cleveland Courage Fund.

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Cleveland kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight appear healthy and happy as they recover from a decade in sickening captivity in a heartwarming video that has been released on YouTube.

This is the first on-camera appearance of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight since they were freed from the clutches of Ariel Castro – who allegedly beat and raped them and held them locked inside his house under unimaginable conditions.

The footage also marks the first public appearance of Michelle Knight since 2002. It was not even know that she had been kidnapped until she was found in Ariel Castro’s home on Seymour Avenue on May 6.

The video, which is three and a half minutes long, was posted on YouTube late Monday by Hennes Paynter Communications, the public relations firm that the three young women and their families hired after they were freed from captivity.

In it, all three women thank the supporters who rallied to their cause after they were sensationally freed on May 6. The story captivated the nation and united the hard-scrabble city of Cleveland.

“First and foremost, I want everyone to understand how happy I am to be home with my family and my friends. It’s been unbelievable,” Amanda Berry says.

She adds: “I’m getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely. I ask that everyone continues to respect our privacy and give us to time have a normal life.”

The video offers a hopeful portrait of the girls, who have gone into hiding among the furor of media coverage that descended on Cleveland after they were sensationally found alive after nearly everyone had given up searching for them.

Kathy Joseph, an attorney for Michelle Knight, said in a statement that the three women wanted to “say thank you to people from Cleveland and across the world, now that two months have passed”.

She said they’re being recognized in public, “so they decided to put voices and faces to their heartfelt messages”.

James Wooley, attorney for Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, also issued a statement saying Michelle Knight and his clients thank people for the privacy they’ve been given and do not want to discuss their case with the news media or anyone else.

Michelle Knight, who was Ariel Castro’s first alleged victim – said to be taken off a west-side street in 2002, put a brave face on her new world.

“Thank you everyone for your love support and donations, which helped me build a brand new life. I want everyone to know I’m doing just fine,” she said.

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight appear healthy and happy as they recover from a decade in sickening captivity

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight appear healthy and happy as they recover from a decade in sickening captivity

Michelle knight’s family said that she has developmental disabilities and bore the brunt of the brutal beatings and torture that Ariel Castro allegedly doled out.

Her aunt told reports that she was beaten so badly she required reconstruction surgery to repair the damage to her face.

Michelle Knight appears undaunted in the video.

“I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high and with my feet firmly on the ground,” she says.

She speaks about her faith in God and how she is leaning on her faith to get her through the difficult recovery.

“God has a plan for all of us. The plan that he gave me is for me to help others that have been in the same situations I have been in – to know that there is someone out there to lean on and to talk to,” Michelle Knight says.

“I am in control of my own destiny with the guidance of God.”

Gina DeJesus appears briefly to thank all of the donors who contributed to the Cleveland Courage fund to help the three girls.

More than 9,200 donors have amassed a little more than $1million for the girls’ recovery.

All three women smile broadly as the speak. They are well-dressed and wearing tastefully-applied makeup in the heavily-produced video shot in downtown Cleveland.

However, the video also contains reminders of the horror that the young women experienced.

Michelle Knight appears to display the effects of the severe beatings she endured for 11 years.

Gina DeJesus speaks only one line in the video. When asked by a man behind the camera what she would like to say to the people who contributed to the Cleveland Courage fund, she responds: “I would say thank you for the support.”

Instead, Gina’s family speaks for her.

Her parents Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz never gave up hope and never stopped searching for their daughter.

“I would like to thank everyone who has donated to the courage fund for these girls. I’d also like to thank the family for having so much passion and the strength to go along with us,” Felix DeJesus says.

Nancy Ruiz offered a word of encouragement to parents who are going through the trauma of missing a child.

She said: “To parents that does have a loved one missing. Please do me one big favor, count on your neighbors. Don’t be afraid to ask for their help because help is available.”

Ariel Castro, 52, faces 329 charges of kidnapping, rape, aggravated murder and other charges as a result of the statements the three women gave to police. The aggravated murder charge stems from a pregnancy that Ariel Castro alleged terminated by beating one of the women so severely she had a miscarriage.

Last week, a Cleveland judge ruled Ariel Castro mentally fit to stand trial.

The judge also denied his request to visit Jocelyn, the 6-year-old daughter he fathered with Amanda Berry while she was in captivity in his Cleveland house.

Psychologists say that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight have many long years of intensive therapy and rehabilitation ahead of them to begin to undo the damage left by the horrific abuse that they suffered.

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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro has asked permission today to visit the six-year-old daughter Jocelyn he fathered with Amanda Berry, one of the women he stands accused of keeping captive for ten years at his home.

At the end of a pre-trial hearing on Wednesday, Ariel Castro, bearded with his chin tucked to his chest for most of time, asked to see Jocelyn he had with kidnapping victim Amanda Berry.

Cleveland judge Michael Russo denied the request, saying: “I just think that would be inappropriate.”

Amanda Berry was dramatically rescued from Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home along with Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and her 6-year-old Jocelyn on May 6.

The three women had been kept prisoner by Ariel Castro for almost ten years and suffered systematic rapes, beatings and induced abortions at the hands of the 52-year-old former school bus driver.

Amanda Berry, now 27, is living currently with her sister Beth Serrano in Cleveland and is said to be suffering from the horrifying memories of her ordeal at the hands of her captor.

Ariel Castro was found competent to stand trial at the hearing today.

An examination found that Ariel Castro is mentally able to understand the charges and assist attorneys in his defense, Cuyahoga County judge said.

At the end of a pre-trial hearing, Ariel Castro asked to see daughter Jocelyn he had with kidnapping victim Amanda Berry

At the end of a pre-trial hearing, Ariel Castro asked to see daughter Jocelyn he had with kidnapping victim Amanda Berry

He has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment that includes multiple kidnapping and rape charges. He’s being held on an $8 million bond.

Cleveland authorities accuse Ariel Castro of kidnapping Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry between 2002 and 2004 when they were 20, 14, and 16 years old.

Also on Wednesday, prosecutor Tim McGinty said a meeting is planned for July 11 to discuss the possibility of seeking the death penalty for Ariel Castro, who faces aggravated murder charges stemming from allegations that he caused the deliberate termination of one of the women’s pregnancies.

Tim McGinty invited Ariel Castro’s attorney Craig Weintraub to submit evidence to him before the meeting to support an argument against the death penalty in the upcoming discussions.

Ariel Castro’s attorneys have previously hinted that he might plead guilty if talk of capital punishment was taken off the table.

Tim McGinty said prosecutors would be going back to the county grand jury to seek more charges against Ariel Castro, but he didn’t know when that would happen.

Ariel Castro has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus off the streets between 2002 and 2004 and held them for a decade in his two-story home in a rough Cleveland neighborhood.

He fathered a six-year-old daughter child with Amanda Berry and is accused of starving and punching Michelle Knight to cause her to miscarry.

Ariel Castro was arrested on May 6, shortly after one of the women broke through a door at the home and yelled to neighbors for help.

The trial is scheduled for August 5, but judge Michael Russo said it could be delayed. Another hearing is set for July 24.

Last month, prosecutors increased the number of charges against Ariel Castro and he now faces 329 indicted counts.

Ariel Castro was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross se***l imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

The indictment alleges Castro held the women captive, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van.

It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

The indictment covers the period from August 2002, when the first of the women, Michelle Knight, disappeared, to February 2007.

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Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro will plead “not guilty” to 329 charges, including kidnapping and rape.

On Friday, Ariel Castro, 52, was indicted on 329 charges. His lawyer told Reuters Saturday that he plans on pleading “not guilty” to those charges at his arraignment next week.

“The indictment is being reviewed and a <<not guilty>> plea will be entered at the scheduled arraignment,” attorney Jaye M. Schlachet said.

The indictment covers the period from August of 2002, when Michelle Knight, the first of the three women discovered in his Cleveland home last month, disappeared, until February of 2007.

Ariel Castro was indicted for one act of aggravated murder – for purposely and with prior calculation and design causing the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

He was also indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross s***al imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

Ariel Castro will be arraigned on those charges next week and a trial judge will then be assigned.

“Today’s indictments represent a first major step in the criminal justice process,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty.

When the indictment process is complete, the County Prosecutor’s Capital Review Committee will consider whether this case is appropriate to attach the death penalty.

Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro will plead “not guilty” to 329 charges

Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro will plead “not guilty” to 329 charges

Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and holding them captive along with 6-year-old Jocelyn, the girl he fathered with Berry.

The suspect has been in the Cuyahoga County Jail since his arrest on May 6. He was charged on May 8 and was jailed on $8 million bond.

Ariel Castro was taken off “suicide prevention” watch on Wednesday after being monitored for the past month.

Jail logs released on Wednesday also show Ariel Castro has been visited multiple times by relatives, but did not list which family members paid a visit to the suspect, News Channel 5 reported.

They also reveal that he watched a lot of television, spent a lot of time running in place and has met with his defense attorneys. He has refused time out of his cell on at least two occasions.

They show his cells being checked for contraband items – and none being found.

Jail logs last month noted that Ariel Castro spends most of his time in his cell resting or asleep, with breaks for pacing, showers and cell cleaning.

Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, was arrested May 6 after one of the women, Amanda Berry, kicked out part of a locked door of his house and yelled to neighbors to help her and call police.

Police quickly arrived and found Amanda Berry in the street before racing through the house, freeing Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The women were admitted to a hospital but have been released.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were in their teens or early 20s, authorities said.

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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was indicted on 329 charges on Friday including kidnapping and rape.

The indictment covers the period from August of 2002, when the first of the three women discovered in his Cleveland home last month disappeared, until February of 2007.

Ariel Castro, 52, was indicted for one act of aggravated murder – for purposely and with prior calculation and design causing the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.

He was also indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

Ariel Castro will be arraigned on those charges next week and a trial judge will then be assigned.

“Today’s indictments represent a first major step in the criminal justice process,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty.

When the indictment process is complete, the County Prosecutor’s Capital Review Committee will consider whether this case is appropriate to attach the death penalty.

Ariel Castro is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and holding them captive along with 6-year-old Jocelyn he fathered with Berry.

His attorneys have said he will plead not guilty to any indictment.

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was indicted on 329 charges including kidnapping and rape

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro was indicted on 329 charges including kidnapping and rape

Ariel Castro has been in the Cuyahoga County Jail since his arrest on May 6. He was charged on May 8 and was jailed on $8 million bond.

He was taken off “suicide prevention” watch on Wednesday after being monitored for the past month.

Jail logs released on Wednesday also show Ariel Castro has been visited multiple times by relatives, but did not list which family members paid a visit to the suspect, News Channel 5 reported.

They also reveal that he watched a lot of television, spent a lot of time running in place and has met with his defense attorneys. He has refused time out of his cell on at least two occasions.

They show his cells being checked for contraband items – and none being found.

Jail logs last month noted that Ariel Castro spends most of his time in his cell resting or asleep, with breaks for pacing, showers and cell cleaning.

The logs, made every 10 minutes while he was on suicide watch, documented his movements at the Cuyahoga County jail.

Ariel Castro’s attorney, Craig Weintraub, described Castro’s cell as a 9-by-9-foot cell containing a metal bed with a thin mattress covered in plastic, a metal sink, and some kind of mirror.

Previous logs said Ariel Castro walked around the cell naked early in his confinement, though he later covered up.

The logs show Ariel Castro periodically asks for the time, looks out the window and stares at the ceiling. Other entries show him thanking guards for bringing his breakfast and wishing them a good day.

Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, was arrested May 6 after one of the women, Amanda Berry, kicked out part of a locked door of his house and yelled to neighbors to help her and call police.

Police quickly arrived and found Amanda Berry in the street before racing through the house, freeing Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The women were admitted to a hospital but have been released.

The three disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were in their teens or early 20s, authorities said.

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Johnny Berry, Amanda Berry’s father,  has revealed how his daughter is struggling to recover after ten years in captivity in Cleveland and is petrified that her accused kidnapper Ariel Castro is coming back for her.

Johnny Berry, 52, who is dying from a deadly pulmonary disease, told the National Enquirer that: “Amanda’s having a terrible time. She’s having nightmares every night, waking up screaming and crying, terrified that Castro is coming after her, or that she’s still a prisoner.

“She’s told me she’s afraid her freedom is a dream and she’s going to wake up to the horror of finding out she is still a prisoner.”

As Amanda Berry recovers from her decade-long prison ordeal, her father has spoken of his anger to declare that he would like to kill her accused kidnapper Ariel Castro.

“If I could get my hands on that monster Castro, I’d kill him myself!” said Johnny Berry from his death bed in Elizabethton, Tennessee.

Near paralyzed from recent back surgery, Johnny Berry, who is covered in tattoos and wears an uncomfortable neck brace, explained that if he can’t kill Ariel Castro, then he wants him to rot in jail for the rest of his life.

“If I can’t kill him, I don’t want the state to execute him,” said Johnny Berry to the National Enquirer.

“That would be too easy for him.”

“I want him in prison for the rest of his life. I know people in there who can make his life a living hell for what he did to Amanda. I want them to beat the s**t out of him every single day.”

Johnny Berry, Amanda Berry’s father, has revealed how his daughter is struggling to recover after ten years in captivity in Cleveland

Johnny Berry, Amanda Berry’s father, has revealed how his daughter is struggling to recover after ten years in captivity in Cleveland

Amanda Berry was dramatically rescued from Ariel Castro’s Cleveland, Ohio, home along with Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and her own six year old child by Castro, Jocelyn on May 6th.

The three women had been kept prisoner by Ariel Castro for almost ten years and suffered systematic rapes, beatings and induced abortions at the hands of the 52-year-old former school bus driver.

It has been claimed that the three dogs who lived in the home with the girls were kept in better condition that they were – and the girls still have to decide whether they want to take them back.

The last time that Johnny Berry saw his daughter, she was working as a 16-year-old in the local Burger King, enjoying her time at school where she was doing well.

Now, Johnny Berry, who has served time himself in jail for s**ual battery and aggravated assault, has expressed his fears that he may never see his daughter again or the grand-daughter he has never met.

However, he told the National Enquirer that he has at least spoken to Amanda twice since her lucky escape earlier this month.

“When she called me, her voice was the most beautiful sound I ever heard,” said Johnny Berry.

“She said, <<Hi daddy. I’m still alive. I love you, love you, love you!>> We were both crying…it was the happiest day of my life.”

Amanda Berry, who is now 27 is living currently with her sister Beth Serrano in Cleveland and is said to be suffering from the horrifying memories of her ordeal at the hands of Ariel Castro.

Johnny Berry was married to Amanda’s mother, Louwana Miller up until one month before Amanda’s disappearance. Louwana Miller died in 2005.

“I can’t say I was the best dad in the world,” admitted Johnny Berry.

“I feel a lot of guilt that I wasn’t there for Amanda when she needed me.

“If I had known where she was, I would have gotten a gun and gone over there and gotten her out myself, but we had no idea. It was like she just disappeared off the face of the earth.”

Despite his confirmation that his daughter is struggling, the three women rescued after being held captive in a Cleveland house for about a decade want the community to know they are doing fine and appreciate offers of help.

The message was relayed in a letter released Tuesday by their attorneys.

The letter said Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are happy and safe. A charity fund to help the women has raised more than $650,000 from more than 6,800 donors.

Amanda Berry broke through a locked door on May 6, yelled to neighbors for help and enabled Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus to escape.

Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, has been charged with three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping, one for each of the three women and one for Amanda Berry’s 6-year-old daughter fathered by Castro.

His defense team says he will plead not guilty. The case is pending before a Cuyahoga County grand jury.

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Ariel Castro, who is accused of imprisoning three women in his Cleveland home for a decade, spends most of his time in jail resting or asleep, with breaks for pacing, showers and cell cleaning.

New jail logs released Friday also document defendant Ariel Castro thanking a guard for bringing him breakfast and wishing him a good day.

Ariel Castro, 52, remains on suicide watch with his activities documented in writing every 10 minutes at the Cuyahoga County jail.

He faces preliminary charges of rape and kidnapping following his arrest last week on suspicion of kidnapping the women off the streets near his west side neighborhood, then holding them against their will and sexually assaulting them over the next 10 years.

DNA tests showed Ariel Castro is the father of 6-year-old Jocelyn, born to captive Amanda Berry during her time in the house.

Ariel Castro spends most of his time in jail resting or asleep, with breaks for pacing, showers and cell cleaning

Ariel Castro spends most of his time in jail resting or asleep, with breaks for pacing, showers and cell cleaning

Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver, was arrested May 6 shortly after Amanda Berry kicked out part of a locked door of his house and yelled to neighbors to help her and call police.

Police quickly arrived and found Amanda Berry in the street holding a girl and then raced through the house, freeing Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The women were admitted to a hospital but have been released and have remained in seclusion, appealing for privacy.

The three disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were in their teens or early 20s, authorities said.
Ariel Castro has been jailed on $8 million bond.

Ariel Castro’s attorney, Craig Weintraub, has described Castro’s cell as a 9-by-9-foot cell containing a metal bed with a thin mattress covered in plastic, a metal sink, and some kind of mirror.
Previous logs said Ariel Castro walked around the cell naked early in his confinement, though he later covered up.

Craig Weintraub, who has said Ariel Castro will plead not guilty, did not immediately return a message left Friday about the logs.

The logs show that Ariel Castro periodically asks for the time, looks out the window and stares at the ceiling.

“… up and pacing,” according to a handwritten note at 8:10 a.m. on Tuesday, which follows an entry on Ariel Castro going to the bathroom.

“Inmate laying on mat staring at the floor,” says an entry that night at 7:30 p.m.

“Inmate laying on mat staring at the ceiling,” says an entry 10 minutes later.

Wednesday morning beginning at 10:20 a.m., Ariel Castro cleaned his cell for 40 minutes, according to the logs.
“Thank you,” Castro says when he received his breakfast at 6:36 a.m. on Thursday, the logs said.
“Thank you have a good day officer,” Ariel Castro says about 15 minutes later, according to the logs.

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Two dogs found by police at Ariel Castro’s home and another one in his car could have served as pets for his three captives and were apparently in better condition than the women he imprisoned.

A Chihuahua was found in the car with Ariel Castro the night he was arrested for allegedly holding three women captive for a decade, while two terrier poodle mixes were found in his Cleveland home.

Ohio-based reporter Ed Gallek spoke with Piers Morgan about the animals, and said there was “some talk” among officers that may have been pets for Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

“I am told that the dogs were in reasonably good health,” he said on CNN, adding that the only concerns about their upkeep was that they had matted hair from not enough grooming.

Ed Gallek said the role of the dogs was unclear but that an “R.I.P” message found scrawled on the wall of the basement is believed to have referred to a pet.

Ariel Castro's dogs could have served as pets for his three captives and were apparently in better condition than the women he imprisoned

Ariel Castro’s dogs could have served as pets for his three captives and were apparently in better condition than the women he imprisoned

He added: “There’s some talk in law enforcement circles in recent days about the dogs being pets for the women… That is something that we’re still looking into, but that is another possibility.”

Piers Morgan added that perhaps the animals had been used as “noise shields” for what was going on inside the house.

The animals have now been taken to animal rescue kennels in Cleveland but police are waiting to see if any of the victims want to keep them before they are put up for adoption.

If they do not, the three dogs will be placed in foster homes, Ed Gallek said.

They were seized following Ariel Castro’s arrest on kidnapping and rape charges. He is accused of chaining Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus up in his home and assaulting them for years.

The good health of the dogs came despite the horrendous treatment the three women allegedly endured at the hands of Ariel Castro after they were snatched from the streets.

Michelle Knight, now 32, was subjected to numerous beatings and treated like “a punching bag”, a family friend of one of the victims has told CNN.

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A family friend of one of the Cleveland victims has revealed that Michelle Knight, the first of three women to be kidnapped off the street who suffered more than a decade of abuse in Ariel Castro’s house of horrors, was subjected to numerous beatings and treated like “a punching bag”.

Michelle Knight, now 32, vanished in August 2002, and was not seen again until earlier this month when she emerged from a dilapidated house on Seymour Avenue with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

The owner of the home, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, faces kidnapping and rape charges. He is accused of chaining up all three women in the home and raping them.

A family friend of one of the victims told CNN that Michelle Knight was often hit with hand weights and other objects and treated like a “punching bag” for 11 years.

Her relatives say that she is deaf in one ear, and may need facial reconstruction surgery. She was released from a hospital on Friday.

Michelle Knight was often hit with hand weights and other objects and treated like a “punching bag” for 11 years

Michelle Knight was often hit with hand weights and other objects and treated like a “punching bag” for 11 years

Michelle Knight stayed in the hospital for several days after the other two women left.

She told CNN in a statement: “I am healthy, happy and safe and will reach out to family, friends and supporters in good time.”

Michelle Knight told police that her alleged captor repeatedly raped her and caused her to miscarry at least five times over the years by starving her and punching her in the stomach.

Police sources told the National Enquirer that Ariel Castro had no interest in having children with Michelle Knight, because she was only 4-foot-7 and he believed her to be “mentally disabled”.

The magazine’s source added that Ariel Castro was grooming his 6-year-old daughter with Amanda, Jocelyn, as another sex slave because the other captives “were getting to old for him”.

Police had not been looking for Michelle Knight when she was found in Ariel Castro’s house.

Michelle Knight disappeared in 2002 at age 21. Her mother concluded she might have run away from home because she was angry about the state taking away her child.

Police dropped the case when they couldn’t reach her mother.

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Hodges restaurant in downtown Cleveland is helping to make Charles Ramsey – the man who famously helped rescue kidnapping victim Amanda Berry – even more of a household name.

Hodges has added the “Ramsey burger” in honor of the 43-year-old hero, who has worked as a dishwasher at the restaurant.

The $12 burger is eight ounces of Certified Angus Beef with lettuce, cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles, and a “secret sauce” on a toasted sesame seed bun.

The owner of the restaurant, Chris Hodgson, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the burger is a “play on a Big Mac, which is what he was eating [when the rescue occurred]”.

Chris Hodgson has also been selling T-shirts that honor Charles Ramsey, raising more than $17,000 so far.

The $12 Ramsey burger at Hodges restaurant is eight ounces of Certified Angus Beef with lettuce, cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles, and a secret sauce on a toasted sesame seed bun

The $12 Ramsey burger at Hodges restaurant is eight ounces of Certified Angus Beef with lettuce, cheddar cheese, bread and butter pickles, and a secret sauce on a toasted sesame seed bun

Unlike the burger, the proceeds of the shirt sales are going to the kidnapping victims, Chris Hodgson said.

Charles Ramsey won hero status across the nation for breaking into his neighbor’s home to rescue Amanda Berry, who had been kept inside the house for years against her will along with Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus and her 6-year-old daughter.

Hours after the rescue, Charles Ramsey catapulted to Internet fame for the series of colorful television interviews that he gave on the ordeal.

Hodges patron Melissa Rush tried the burger on Monday afternoon and told the Cleveland Fox affiliate it was “delicious”.

When asked what she thought about Charles Ramsey, she said: “Oh, I’m obsessed. I’ve been following it. I think the guy is great. I’m really proud to know that he’s from Cleveland.”

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Officer Barbara Johnson has described the moment she rescued Michelle Knight in the Cleveland house of horrors, 11 years after the 32-year-old was abducted.

Barbara Johnson was one of the first Cleveland police officers to rush into Ariel Castro’s house on Seymour Avenue after Amanda Berry managed to escape and call 911.

When she found Michelle Knight, the woman grabbed her tightly and begged her not to leave her, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

“Michelle hugged me first, then clutched me and said, <<Don’t let me go>>,” Barbara Johnson said at an awards ceremony for the officers involved in the miraculous rescue.

“You can’t really describe how I felt…it rips the heart out of my chest.”

Officer Barbara Johnson has described the moment she rescued Michelle Knight in the Cleveland house of horrors

Officer Barbara Johnson has described the moment she rescued Michelle Knight in the Cleveland house of horrors

The rescue of Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus a decade after they were all feared dead has been called the “Miracle in Cleveland”.

For the officers who arrived at Ariel Castro’s home on May 6, it was also a brush with unimaginable horror.

“When I heard there were people in the house, I ran up to the door, but it was locked from the inside,” Officer Michael Simon recalled.

“So I grabbed the hand rail by the stairs to use as a prying tool…but the other officers kicked the door in.

“Once inside, I felt evil in the house.”

Even the veteran officers who are confronted with human tragedy on a frequent basis could not ignore the emotional impact of rescuing the three girls from a decade of captivity.

“I’ve broke down [crying] a few times on the scene, and in private since then,” Officer Anthony Espada – the first officer on the scene – admitted.

“Those three girls are my heroes… after what went through in that house all those years.”

Ariel Castro, who is accused of imprisoning three women for a decade in his house in Cleveland, will plead not guilty to all charges, his lawyers say.

Ariel Castro, 52, is charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were abducted at different times and held in Ariel Castro’s house in Cleveland. Amanda Berry escaped earlier this month and raised the alarm.

“He’s not a monster and he shouldn’t be demonized,” said lawyer Jaye Schlachet.

Speaking to the AFP news agency, he added that details of Ariel Castro’s innocence “will be disclosed as the case progresses”.

Craig Weintraub, another defense lawyer, told WKYC-TV that his client “loves dearly” Jocelyn, the child he fathered with 27-year-old Amanda Berry – one of the three alleged kidnap victims.

The defense lawyers said they had spent four hours speaking to Ariel Castro in prison.

Prosecutors in Ohio have said they also plan to seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty.

The charges relate to alleged forced miscarriages suffered by one victim.

Ariel Castro, who is accused of imprisoning three women for a decade in his house in Cleveland, will plead not guilty to all charges

Ariel Castro, who is accused of imprisoning three women for a decade in his house in Cleveland, will plead not guilty to all charges

The prosecutors are still preparing their case against Ariel Castro and there has yet to be an arraignment hearing.

Ariel Castro made his first court appearance in Cleveland on May 9 without entering a plea.

County prosecutor Brian Murphy told that hearing: “The charges against Mr. Castro are based on premeditated, deliberate, depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland West Side streets to be used in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.”

He is charged with four counts of kidnapping, covering the three initial abduction victims and Jocelyn, Amanda Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was apparently conceived and born in captivity.

The former school bus driver also faces three counts of rape, one against each woman.

Bail was set at $8 million, meaning in effect that he has remained in custody ever since. He is currently on suicide watch and is being kept in isolation.

According to CBS News, Ariel Castro confessed to his crimes in a long, hand-written letter found in the house, which investigators believe may have been intended as a suicide note.

In the 2004-dated letter Ariel Castro said he had been raped as a child by his uncle and was also abused by his parents, a law enforcement source told CBS News.

Ariel Castro reportedly called himself a “sexual predator”, but he also asked to donate all his money to his victims after his death.

His two brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, also appeared in court on unrelated charges. They had been arrested, but police found no evidence linking them to the crime.

Pedro Castro was fined $100 for public drinking, while two minor counts against Onil Castro were dropped.

Amanda Berry, whose disappearance in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday was widely publicized in the local media, escaped from Ariel Castro’s house by kicking the door and screaming for help while her alleged captor was out. His neighbor, Charles Ramsey, helped her to escape.

Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus were freed soon afterwards. They were all abducted after accepting rides from Ariel Castro, according to a police report leaked to the media.

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Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned in Ariel Castro’s Cleveland house in conditions described as similar to a prisoner of war camp and have suffered from severe malnutrition.

They will require long-term therapy for injuries such as hearing loss and joint and muscle damage, two sources with direct knowledge said.

The harrowing details come as Ariel Castro’s attorneys claim he’s not the “monster” depicted in news reports – and he will plead not guilty to kidnapping and rape charges.

Ariel Castro’s lawyer, Craig Weintraub, told WKYC-TV: “The initial portrayal by the media has been one of a <<monster>> and that’s not the impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours.

“I know that family members who have been interviewed by the media have expressed that as well.”

The basement where the women were held had chains coming from the wall, and dog leashes attached to the ceiling, the sources said.

The women were restrained with them and duct tape in “stress positions” for long periods that left them with bed sores and other injuries, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the investigation, who asked not to be identified.

Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were in worse condition than Amanda Berry when they emerged from at least nine years in captivity at the home of Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping and raping the women.

Ariel Castro appeared to treat Amanda Berry – his “favorite” – better than the other two, the sources said.

“There is a reason why you have only seen a picture of Amanda,” said one of the sources, referring to the condition of Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned in Ariel Castro’s Cleveland house in conditions described as similar to a prisoner of war camp and have suffered from severe malnutrition

Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned in Ariel Castro’s Cleveland house in conditions described as similar to a prisoner of war camp and have suffered from severe malnutrition

Michelle Knight told investigators she fell pregnant five times, but lost the baby each time. She said that Ariel Castro starved and repeatedly punched her in the stomach to force her to miscarry.

Police sources told the National Enquirer that Ariel Castro had no interest in having children with Michelle Knight, because she was only 4-foot-7 and believed her to be “mentally disabled”.

The magazine’s source added that Ariel Castro was grooming his 6-year-old daughter with Amanda Berry, Jocelyn, as another sex slave because the other captives “were getting to old for him”.

Amanda Berry, who broke down a door to freedom a week ago with the help of a neighbor, and then told police of the other women, was photographed smiling immediately after the dramatic rescue.

In contrast, Gina DeJesus wore a hooded sweat-shirt covering her head when she first went home last week, and Michelle Knight was hospitalized for days, and has stayed out of public view.

The sources said Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were gaunt and had closely cropped hair when they were freed.

One of the sources, who has been in the house, said the basement had chains coming from the walls and “dog leashes attached to the ceiling”, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus told police they spent extensive time in the basement.

A second source corroborated the details.

“One of the girls has difficulty moving her head around from being chained up,” said one of the sources. The second source identified Gina DeJesus as the woman suffering this injury.

“It was like they were POWs [prisoners of war]. They had bed sores from being left in positions for extended lengths of time,” a source said.

All the bedroom doors in the house had padlocks on the outside and the rooms were spare with only a mattress on the floor. Their movement through the house was very restricted, the women have told authorities.

“If he left for long periods of time he would sometimes duct tape-up the women over all parts of their faces, even their eyes, only leaving an opening so they could breathe. Then he would just rip it off pulling off skin and hair,” one of the sources said.

A police report said Michelle Knight was starved for weeks at a time and punched in the stomach to induce several miscarriages. A county prosecutor intends to file fetal homicide charges against Ariel Castro in connection with the miscarriages.

The women, especially Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were now exhibiting signs of malnutrition as Ariel Castro used food as a means to torment them, one of the sources said.

“He would bring food to one or two of the girls and made the others watch as they or he would eat in front of them,” the source said.

Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus would sneak food to each other, this source said.

Ariel Castro generally kept one woman upstairs and the other two – usually Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus – in the basement, the source said.

Despite their ordeal, a Cleveland city council member stressed that the women are reveling in their freedom.

“They are doing well, doing very well. They are thriving and enjoying their freedom,” City Councilman Brian Cummins said on Monday.

The sources asked to be anonymous because they were not authorized to speak on the record. They were discussing some of the details of the captivity because they felt tight information control had left the impression that authorities ignored calls and reports about Ariel Castro’s house that could have freed the women sooner.

Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath on Monday issued a statement defending the police department’s policy of restricting information on the crimes.

“The disclosure of sensitive information and details of these horrendous crimes only further victimize three young women. The criticism of law enforcement efforts is disheartening. The dissemination of misinformation erodes the critical relationship between law enforcement and community,” Michael McGrath said.

Little is known about the relationship among the three women. Michelle Knight, who is now 32, Amanda Berry, 27 and Gina DeJesus, 23, have not spoken publicly.