The twisted tale of the Cleveland kidnap victims
Monday, May 6, 2013. Charles Ramsey is sitting outside, eating lunch, when he hears screams from his next door neighbor’s home. A girl is banging on the door, yelling for help. Kicking the door in, he helps the girl and calls 911. But it didn’t kick in until after he was on the phone who he just saved. Amanda Berry, who was a kidnap victim, just broke free.
Berry took a risk to save her, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight’s lives that day, and the risk paid off. After a decade of torture among the three girls, freedom was only moments away. Their kidnapper, Ariel Castro, was arrested not long after police arrived.
How did Castro kidnap these three women in his home without incident for over ten years? Neighbors report Castro appearing outside of his Cleveland home without any suspension, inviting him to events and parties. But underneath his neighborly demeanor was something dark and twisted.
Kidnapping his victims
The first one to be kidnapped, Knight was given a ride to her custody meeting by Castro when she got lost. Disappearing on August 23rd, 2002, Castro took Knight back to his home and locked her up. Tying her up, he raped her, and beat her if she got pregnant to induce an abortion.
Nine months later, Berry is brought into the home. Picked up by Castro after her shift at Burger King, Berry was locked up, though both DeJesus and Knight note Berry was given “better” treatment than them. Berry gave birth to a son in 2006 fathered by Castro, named Jocelyn.
Lastly, nearly a year after Berry’s abduction, 14 year old DeJesus was kidnapped. A friend of Castro’s daughter, DeJesus gladly took a ride home from Castro without question. While DeJesus was kidnapped, Castro actually stayed close with the DeJesus family, not realizing when he took her that she was part of their family.
Abuse, disgust, and torture
All three women recount similar stories: being hung by their ankles from pipes with a motorbike helmet on, sleeping in the nude on a dirty mattress, being raped on a daily basis by their kidnapper.
While each one received different treatment from Castro depending on who was newer, or who Castro preferred at the time, all dealt with abuse and mistreatment. At the end of the day, these three women put up with a lot of mistreatment from Castro.
A child bringing hope
Unlike Knight and DeJesus, who were beaten into having an abortion, Berry was left pregnant when she figured out she was discovered in 2006. On Christmas Day, 2006, Berry gave birth to Castro’s daughter, with Knight being forced to help with the pregnancy and revive the baby when she lost oxygen.
Named Jocelyn, Castro treated her like his own daughter. While she was kept in the basement with the other women when he left the house, she would get to go to the park, church, and hang out with his friends upstairs when he had people over. Once Jocelyn was born, something changed in Castro.
While he trained Berry to tell Jocelyn the chains are “bracelets”, he eventually let all three women take the chains off. They were still locked in the basement, and were forced to use a bucket as a bathroom, but there were less restrictions on them.
On May 6th, 2013, Jocelyn was yelling upstairs “Daddy’s gone! Daddy’s gone!” Both DeJesus and Knight ignored her, assuming this was just another test from Castro, proving they’ll stay hidden. But Berry took a chance and left, going to investigate. Not only did Castro leave, but he forgot to bolt the front door.
Berry ran up to the door, but since the storm door was still locked shut, she banged until a neighbor came to kick in the door. From there, she told him who she was and asked to call 911. Police immediately came to the house, and the three women finally got to see the light of day for the first time in a decade.
A swift punishment
Two days after the girls found freedom, Castro was arrested for kidnapping and rape. Thanks to the thorough journals and diaries the girls kept throughout their time, police were able to easily convict him on 977 counts of various crimes relating to the kidnapping.
On July 26th, 2013, Castro pleaded guilty to all 977 charges, and earned himself life in prison, plus an additional 1,000 years, without parole. Sadly, the girls only got to see their capturer serve one month in prison, as Castro hung himself with bedsheets on September 3rd, 2013.
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