Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Kidnap charge man appears in court

Ariel Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape (AP/Cleveland Police Department)
Amanda Berry, right, hugs her sister Beth Serrano after being reunited in a Cleveland hospital (AP)
Members of the FBI evidence team remove items from a house in Cleveland after three women who went missing were found (AP)

A US man has appeared in court on charges of rape and kidnapping days after three women missing for about a decade were found alive at his home.

Ariel Castro, who was ordered held on eight million dollars bond (£5.2 million), looked down at the ground while lawyers in Cleveland, Ohio, spoke to the judge. Castro bit his collar and signed documents with his handcuffed hands. He did not speak.

He has been charged with four counts of kidnapping - covering the captives and the daughter born to one of them - and three counts of rape, against all three women

The women found alive after a decade in captivity endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away, investigators say. The 52-year-old former school bus driver has emerged as the lone suspect.

Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times and were kept in different rooms. They suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and had miscarriages, according to a city official briefed on the case.

The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police that have helped build their case, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba. None of the women gave them any indication that Castro's two older brothers were involved, Mr Tomba said. Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence.

"Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Mr Tomba said. One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long. The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004 and were found on Monday after one of them screamed for help to escape and contacted police.

"As far as the circumstances inside the home and the control he may have had over those girls ... I think that's going to take us a long time to figure that out," said Mr Tomba.

The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They had never seen a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week when Amanda Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.

Cleveland police later said Ariel Castro's brothers, 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Onil Castro, had been released from custody. Pedro Castro pleaded no contest to an unrelated open-container charge in court on Monday. Two unrelated misdemeanor charges against Onil Castro were dropped.

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