Ariel Castro charged in Cleveland kidnapping

CLEVELAND Thu May 9, 2013 3:40am IST

1 of 2. Gina DeJesus arrives at her home in Cleveland, Ohio, May 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/John Gress

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland resident Ariel Castro was charged on Wednesday with kidnapping and raping three women who were rescued from his house on Monday after nearly a decade in captivity.

Castro's two brothers Pedro and Onil, originally arrested in the case, were not charged, said Cleveland city prosecutor Victor Perez at a news conference.

The charges came as police revealed that the women, who were rescued on Monday after one of them, Amanda Berry, fled with the help of a neighbour, had not seen any previous chances to escape in nearly ten years of captivity.

"The only opportunity, after interviewing the young ladies, to escape was the other day when Amanda escaped," Cleveland Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba said at the same news conference.

"They don't believe that they've been outside that home for the last 10 years respectively," he said.

"They were not in one room, but they did know each other and they did know each other was there," he added.

Police said earlier that they found ropes and chains in the house that had been used to hold them prisoner. No human remains were found, they said.

Castro, 52, faces four counts of kidnapping relating to Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Berry's 6-year-old daughter who was conceived and born during her mother's captivity, authorities said.

A paternity test will be conducted to determine the girl's father, Tomba said.

Castro is not a suspect in any other cases, he said.

Authorities were searching a second house in relation to the case, Tomba said.

Berry and DeJesus went to their families' homes on Wednesday, while Knight was in a Cleveland hospital where a spokeswoman said she was in good condition.

The rape charges against Castro relate to Berry, DeJesus and Knight, the prosecutor said. He would be arraigned on Thursday morning, the prosecutor said.

Castro and his two brothers were arrested on Monday evening within hours of the women's escape from his house.

However, there was no evidence Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were involved, the prosecutor said.

Investigators took some 200 pieces of evidence from the Castro house, which Tomba said was "in quite a bit of disarray."

Neither Berry nor DeJesus spoke publicly as they were hustled inside their family's homes, and relatives emerged instead to speak to the waiting crowds of spectators and media.

Berry and her daughter could be seen from an aerial television camera arriving in a convoy of vehicles at her sister's house and going in the back door.

DeJesus was rushed into the home she had not seen in nine years, clenched in a tight embrace by her sister Mayra. DeJesus hid her face in a yellow hooded sweat-shirt but raised her hand in a thumbs-up sign to the crowd that was chanting "Gina. Gina."

Her mother Nancy DeJesus came outside after a little while.

"I want to thank everybody that believed," she said. "Even the ones that doubted, I still want to thank them the most because they're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there."

Before Monday evening, Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003. Her disappearance as a teenager was widely publicized in the local media.

DeJesus vanished while walking home from school at age 14 in 2004, and Knight, 32, was 20 when she disappeared in 2002.

Born in Puerto Rico, Ariel Castro played bass in Latin music bands in the area. Records show he was divorced more than a decade ago and his ex-wife had since died. He is known to have at least one adult daughter and son

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Barbara Goldberg; Writing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Editing by Grant McCool, Toni Reinhold and Bernard Orr)

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