CLEVELAND – A man suspected of keeping three women captive inside his decrepit house for a decade was charged Wednesday with kidnapping and rape, accused of holding them under conditions so oppressive they were allowed outside for only a few moments in disguise and never saw a chance to escape until this week.
Investigators said the women apparently were bound with ropes and chains, and a city councilman briefed on the case said they were subjected to prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and suffered miscarriages.
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, was 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, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004. At the time, they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Prosecutors brought no charges against Castro’s two brothers, who were arrested along with him on Monday, saying there was no evidence they had any part in the crime.
Castro owns the run-down home where the women were rescued on Monday after one of them, Amanda Berry, broke through a screen door to freedom while he was away. The discovery electrified Cleveland, where many people had come to believe the missing women were dead.
Police Deputy Chief Ed Tomba said it was the only opportunity they ever had to escape.
“Something must have clicked, and she saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity,” he said.
Tomba said the women could remember being outside only twice during their time in captivity.
The women were not kept in the same room but knew about one another, he said.
He also said a paternity test on Castro was being done to establish who fathered Berry’s 6-year-old daughter.
At a news conference, authorities would not discuss the circumstances of the women’s kidnappings or give further details about their ordeals. But City Councilman Brian Cummins said: “We know that the victims have confirmed miscarriages, but with who, how many and what conditions we don’t know.”
“It sounds pretty gruesome,” he added.
Castro was in custody Wednesday and couldn’t be reached for comment. A brother-in-law has said the family was shocked after hearing about the women at the home.
Neighbors said that over the years, Castro took part in the search for one of the women, Gina DeJesus, helped pass out fliers, performed music at a fundraiser for her and attended a candlelight vigil, at which he comforted her mother.
None of the women said anything that indicated Castro’s brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were involved, Tomba said.
“Ariel kept everyone at a distance,” he said.
A court hearing for Ariel Castro was set for today.