Captive in Cleveland: 5 New Things We Know and 5 We Still Don’t Know

We've learned much about the three women rescued in Cleveland on May 6. Here are the newest details—and the key questions that still remain

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A police car and members of the Guardian Angels stand in front of Gina DeJesus's family's home in Cleveland, on May 8, 2013.

Three women who had been missing for about a decade were finally found alive on May 6 in a home near downtown Cleveland. Police arrested three brothers: Ariel Castro, Pedro Castro and Onil Castro. Ariel was arraigned Thursday morning on charges of rape and kidnapping, and a judge has set the bond at $8 million. Authorities said there is no evidence that his two brothers had anything to do with the abductions. While law enforcement officials are still trying to determine how Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and Amanda Berry and her six-year-old daughter stayed hidden for so long, NewsFeed has compiled the newest details that have emerged about their life in captivity—and what we still want to know.


1. Victims Endured Physical and Sexual Abuse

Ariel Castro has been arraigned on charges of three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping, and a city councilman said the women reportedly endured physical and sexual abuse, according to the Associated Press and CNN. Assistant county prosecutor Brian Murphy told the judge in a hearing at Cleveland Municipal Court Thursday morning that Castro used the women “in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit,” the AP reports.

Castro made Michelle Knight deliver Amanda Berry’s daughter in a plastic kiddie pool and threatened to kill Knight if the baby did not survive, according to a police report obtained Wednesday night by NBC NewsThe New York Times, and WKYC. When the infant stopped breathing at one point, Knight performed mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on the baby until she could resume breathing on her own. Castro will undergo a paternity test. The child was never told any of the women’s names for fear she would blow their cover.

On the other hand, Knight told police that Castro got her pregnant several times and would “starve” her for nearly two weeks and “punch” her in the stomach so that she would miscarry. While the other women have been reunited with their families, Knight remains hospitalized at Cleveland’s Metro-Health Medical Center.

All three women said they lived in the basement of the house where they were reportedly held captive for nearly a decade, although eventually they were moved up to the second floor, according to the report. There were padlocks on doors to the attic, basement and garage, the suspect’s son Anthony Castro told WKYC.

During a search of the home, law enforcement officials removed ropes and chains that were allegedly used to “bind” and “restrain” the three women. Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said on The TODAY Show Wednesday that the victims told investigators they were only allowed in the backyard of their captor’s home “once in a while,” but according to this new police report, the women told officers they only remembered going outside twice. They would walk to a garage on the lot, and Castro supposedly made them wear wigs, hats, and sunglasses so that they wouldn’t be recognized, Reuters and USA Today report.

Neighbor Elsie Cintron told the Associated Press that she called the police “several years ago” after seeing a “naked” woman crawling on her hands and knees in the backyard. Another neighbor Nina Samoylicz says she spotted a naked woman in the backyard a couple of years ago, and when she “called out” to her, a man told the woman to “get in the house, then ran in himself,” CNN reports: “We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird, so we called the cops. They thought we was playing, joking, they didn’t believe us.” She also noticed tarps draped over the backyard after that incident.

Ariel also celebrated the anniversaries of the women’s abductions by giving them a special cake and dinner as if it were their birthdays, one of Gina DeJesus’s cousins told the New York Times.

2. Alleged Abductor Mourned Missing Women

Suspected kidnapper Ariel Castro seemed to know the family of Gina DeJesus, the 14-year-old who went missing in 2004, and reportedly helped in the search for her by passing out fliers. A Latin musician, he performed music at a fundraiser held for the young girl and even “comforted” her mother last year during a candlelight vigil in her daughter’s honor, the Associated Press reports.

3. Suspect Kept Neighbors Away from House

Neighbor Israel Lugo also phoned Cleveland police in November 2011 after hearing pounding on the door of Castro’s home and noticing all of the windows were covered with plastic bags. A neighbor recalled the porch light was always burning at Castro’s house, while another remembered “late-night deliveries of groceries” to the “boarded up” house, the New York Times reports. Daniel Marti, who went to junior high school with the suspect and lived nearby for 22 years, told CNN he would see Castro bring home a lot of McDonald’s bags and wouldn’t talk to people near his house. “Now that I think of it, he didn’t want nobody back there,” Marti told CNN. Not to mention the house was also in foreclosure for “non payment of real estate taxes,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports

4. Weird Wardrobe Changes

Israel Lugo, a neighbor, noticed that Mr. Castro, who worked as a school bus driver, used to park the bus outside of his house between morning and afternoon routes — and could go through several wardrobe changes a day, the New York Times reports. “He’ll go in the house, jump on his motorcycle, take off, come back, jump in the car, take off. Every time he switched a car, he switched an outfit.”

5. Suspect’s Son Wrote about The Abductions

When Anthony Castro, the son of alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro, was a journalism student in 2004, he wrote an article for the Cleveland Plain Press about the heightened fears among neighborhood parents after the disappearance of Gina DeJesus–and he even interviewed her mother, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and The New York Times report. Anthony, who is now a banker living in Columbus, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer yesterday he was shocked and horrified to learn about his father’s alleged involvement in the abductions.


1. Why The Women Took Rides With Castro

There are many details to be uncovered on exactly what happened when Amanda Berry, Georgina DeJesus and Michelle Knight disappeared. But according to court records, it is now known that Castro allegedly abducted the victims by simply offering them a ride. In the case of all three, he is said to have lured them into his vehicle, then took them to his home on Cleveland’s west side, where he held them until they were rescued on May 6. What is not known, however is why they got into his car. In the case of DeJesus, it may be clearer because she was a friend of his daughter Arlene. The two girls were walking home from school when she disappeared. But Berry and Knight were strangers to him. Berry phoned her family to tell them she had a ride home when she went missing. But Knight disappeared without a trace. Her mother, Barbara told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that it would have been uncharacteristic for Knight to do something like that.

2. Warning Signs The Police May Have Missed

Cleveland Police Department is reportedly conducting an internal review to find out if anything was overlooked in the search for Berry, DeJesus and Knight. Public Safety Director Martin Flask said in a press conference on Tuesday that detectives had no record of calls to the house of criminal activity at any time after their disappearances. But two neighbors had called police to the home of Ariel Castro, where the women were found, in recent years. A girl who lives next to the house said she and her friends once saw a nude woman in the backyard who was quickly shooed back inside. Police were called but they thought the girls were simply pranking, one told CNN. Another neighbor said she heard pounding on the doors at Castro’s house but when officers got there, knocked and got no answer, they simply left.

3. Story Behind the “R.I.P.” Found Scrawled on Basement Wall

According to Fox affiliate WJW-TV in Cleveland, Michelle Knight reportedly told police that another woman was in the home when she got there, but she was suddenly gone one day. The writing on that wall includes the woman’s name, but police have not yet revealed it.

4. Whether Ashley Summers’ Disappearance Is Related to This Case
Ashley Nicole Summers was 14 when she disappeared in July 2007 and authorities have long suspected that her disappearance was linked to Amanda Berry’s, in part because the disappearances of both took place within blocks of each other. The suspects taken into custody, Ariel, Pedro and Onil Castro, will likely be questioned in her case, but it is still open and Cleveland police and the FBI are still seeking clues. Police said however, no human remains were found at the house. FBI Special Agent Vicki Anderson told HLN that it was too early to say whether or not Summers’ disappearance is connected.

5. Why Michelle Knight Was Scarcely Searched For

While Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus had been sought after for years by their families and the community, little attention was paid to the fate of Knight. It is not even clear how old she was when she disappeared. Some reports say she was 18, while others say she was 21 when she disappeared. After she turned up missing, her mother Barbara Knight and authorities thought she had simply left out of frustration with having her son taken away from her. In fact, her name was apparently absent from the Ohio Missing Persons Database. Her mother said she was originally thought to have left on her own in anger over losing custody of her son. Plus, because she was a legal adult, less emphasis may have been placed on her case as an abduction. A Cleveland police missing persons report says she had a “mental condition” and could be confused by her surroundings, possibly leading her to wander away. Once detectives turned up no leads, her mother searched for Knight alone, sometimes posting flyers in the neighborhood, but with no help from police.

This article was updated on May 9 to reflect that Ariel Castro was arraigned on charges of rape and kidnapping and to include  new details from a police report about the women’s lives in captivity. Below is the criminal complaint against him.

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