Ariel Castro
Ariel Castro Cuyahoga County Sheriff's office

Cleveland kidnapping accused appears in court, bail set at $8m

A CLEVELAND man accused of kidnapping three women before raping and imprisoning them for over a decade has appeared in court.

Former bus driver, Ariel Castro, looked down at the ground while lawyers spoke to the judge.

Cleveland Municipal Court set bail at at a total of $8 million. In court, Castro was expressionless, his hands in cuffs before Judge Lauren Moore.

Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy told the judge that Castro's home "was a prison to these three women and the child."

"Today the situation is turned on him," Murphy said.

"Mr. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner."

Castro had been formally charged on Wednesday with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. He neither spoke nor entered a plea during his initial court appearance on Thursday.

Castro kept his face turned away from the gallery that was crowded with media and spectators.

"He did not want to be on camera," his court-appointed lawyer, Kathleen DeMetz, said after the hearing.

She said Castro would need $800,000 cash to get out of jail.

"The man doesn't have any money," she said. "He clearly doesn't have that."

Police say they've talked with both Castro, 52, and the three women at length in building their case.

While they're not revealing many details, police do say the women were kept inside Castro's house for all but a few brief minutes over the last 10 years.

The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004 and were found Monday after one of them screamed for help to escape and contacted police.

His court appearance came as a letter emerged today, reportedly written by Mr Castro in 2004, in which he wrote: "I am a sexual predator. I need help."

A reporter for Cleveland's 19 Action News, Scott Taylor, posted on Twitter that he had been given a copy of the letter.

Local press reported that police sources had confirmed the existence of the letter.

Ariel Castro owned the house from which Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, were rescued by neighbours on Monday.

Mr Castro's two brothers, Pedro, 54 and Onil, 50, were both taken into custody earlier this week but have not been charged.

The three victims are believed to have been abducted separately from the surrounding neighbourhood before allegedly being held in Mr Castro's home.

Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times and were kept in different rooms.

 

According to reports they suffered prolonged sexual and psychological abuse and had miscarriages, according to a city official briefed on the case.

 

Mr Castro 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 and Castro have given lengthy statements to police that have helped build their case, said Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba.

Police said that more than 200 pieces of evidence were taken from the home where it is alleged the women were held captive.

According to the BBC, Mr Castro has been co-operating with the police waiving his right to silence and also agreeing to a test to establish Jocelyn's paternity.

Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry have been reunited with their families while Michelle Knight remains in hospital.

None of the women have given any indication that Castro's two older brothers, who've been in custody since Monday, were involved, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said.

Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence.

"Ariel kept everyone at a distance," Tomba said.

One thing that remains a mystery, he said, is how the women were kept in the house so long.

"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," he said.

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.

At a news conference, authorities would not discuss the circumstances of their kidnapping and captivity.

City Councilman Brian Cummins earlier 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.

They never saw 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.

The women were assisted in their escape by neighbours, including a Mr Charles Ramsey, whose subsequent frank television interviews made him a global internet sensation.

According to unconfirmed reports, based on court documents published on 'The Smoking Gun' website, Mr Ramsey himself had three domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms.

"Something must have clicked and she saw an opportunity and she took that opportunity," said Tomba.

Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who is in her early 20s, were welcomed home yesterday by jubilant crowds of loved ones and neighbors with balloons and banners. Family members hustled them inside, past hundreds of reporters and onlookers.

Neither woman spoke.

"This is the best Mother's Day I could ever have," said Nancy Ruiz, Gina's mother. She said she hugged her daughter and didn't want to let go.

The Mother's Day holiday is on Sunday in the US.


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