Cleveland kidnapping victims endured decade of isolation, rape, beatings

CLEVELAND,  (Reuters) – Three young women newly freed from a decade-long kidnapping ordeal in Cleveland endured their captivity in the dungeon-like confines of a squalid house, where they were raped, starved, beaten and kept in chains by the man who abducted them, authorities said yesterday.

Their accused tormentor, Ariel Castro, 52, a veteran school bus driver fired from his job last fall, was formally charged yesterday with kidnapping and raping the women, who were rescued from his house on Monday evening shortly before his arrest.

His two brothers, initially arrested as suspects in the case, were not charged, and police said investigators had determined they had no knowledge of the abductions or captivity of the women.

The three victims, believed to have been abducted separately from the surrounding neighborhood and held prisoner for years, were found alive together when neighbors were alerted to their presence by cries for help from one of the women, Amanda Berry.

She told police that her escape two days ago was her first chance to break free in the 10 years that she was imprisoned in the house, during which time she conceived and gave birth to a daughter, now 6, and rescued along with the three women.

Additional details of their captivity emerged in a police report from the initial investigation, including that the three were held in the basement for periods of time, restrained with ropes and chains and occasionally starved, according to Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins, who read the report and said he was briefed by multiple sources in the police department.

Cummins said that one of the three – he did not know which – had suffered at least five miscarriages, which Castro is accused of causing by starving her for weeks and beating her in the stomach.

Freed from the house along with Berry and her daughter were Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32.

Castro, owner of the modest, two-story house, had been thought by neighbors to live there alone. Berry has said she only managed to call for help when Castro briefly left the premises on Monday.

“The only opportunity, after interviewing the young ladies, to escape was the other day when Amanda escaped,” Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the news conference. “They don’t believe that they’ve been outside that home for the last 10 years respectively.”

Authorities said the women recalled leaving the house twice, only to go to the garage on the small lot, when they were disguised in wigs and hats.

Tomba said Berry, DeJesus and Knight had been kept separately in the house, where police have found ropes and chains.

“They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know each other was there,” he said.

Berry’s daughter was born on Dec. 25, 2006 during her mother’s captivity, authorities said. A paternity test will be conducted to determine the girl’s father.

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