Some people, like Ariel Castro of Cleveland, Ohio, have committed acts so evil that it’s difficult to think of them as anything other than monsters.
Castro was a rapist, kidnapper, and torturer who held three women captive for over a decade before releasing them.
The residence at 2207 Seymour Avenue, where he kept the three ladies, had a distinct stench of misery for a long time. Even though the terror that went on inside was hidden by drawn window shades, some neighbors, such as James King, noticed that the house "did not appear right."
How did Castro's victims wind up in this situation? And why did he kidnap them in the first place?
Ariel Castro’s Beginnings
Ariel Castro, who was born in the year 1960 in Puerto Rico, did not start his heinous acts suddenly. It all began with his abusive relationship with Grimilda Figueroa, his wife.
The couple had a complicated relationship. Castro threatened her and their four children with death and physically abused her, fracturing her nose and dislocating her shoulder twice. She left him in the mid-1990s. He once assaulted her so severely that a blood clot formed on her brain.
Castro "often abducts [his] girls" and keeps them from Figueroa, according to a 2005 court petition.
Castro left a child alone on a bus while working for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District in 2004. In 2012, he was dismissed for performing the same thing for the second time.
Despite his bizarre behavior, his daughter Angie Gregg remembered him as a "friendly, kind, doting dad" who would take her out on motorcycle trips and cut his children's hair in the backyard. But everything changed when she discovered his secret.
"I've always wondered how dad could be so wonderful to us, but he stole young ladies, tiny girls, other people's infants, and never felt enough shame through the years to just give up and let them go."
The Cleveland Abductions
Later, Ariel Castro stated that his crimes were motivated by chance: he noticed these women and a perfect storm permitted him to kidnap them for his own purposes.
"I didn't even plan it that day when I picked up the first victim," he stated in court. It was something I planned...I went to Family Dollar that day and overheard her say something...I didn't say I was going to find some women that day. It was not in my nature."
Despite this, he used cliché tactics to seduce each victim, offering one a puppy, another a ride, and the last begging for assistance in finding a lost child. He also used the fact that each victim knew Castro and one of his children to his advantage.
Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, And Gina DeJesus
Castro's first victim was Michelle Knight. Knight couldn't find the building she needed on her way to a social services appointment about recovering custody of her infant son on Aug. 23, 2002. She sought assistance from various passers-by, but no one could point her in the proper way. That's when she first noticed Castro.
He offered her a ride, and she accepted because he was the father of someone she knew. However, he drove in the incorrect way, claiming to have a dog for her son at his place. His car's passenger door was missing a handle.
She entered his home and proceeded to the location where he claimed the puppies were. He slammed the door behind her as soon as she entered a room on the second level. For 11 years, Knight wouldn't leave Seymour Avenue.
Next up came Amanda Berry. She was looking for a ride after leaving her Burger King shift in 2003 when she spotted Castro's familiar-looking van. She, like Knight, would be held captive until 2013.
Gina DeJesus, a 14-year-old friend of Castro's daughter Arlene, was the most recent victim. On a spring day in 2004, she and Arlene's intentions to hang out fell through, and the two parted ways.
DeJesus ran across the father of one of her friends, who asked for her assistance in finding Arlene. DeJesus agreed and returned to Castro's home with him.
In the wake of her disappearance, Castro's son Anthony, a student writer, wrote a story on the missing family friend. He even spoke with Nancy Ruiz, DeJesus' bereaved mother, who remarked, "People are looking out for each other's kids." It's a shame it took a tragedy for me to get to know my neighbors. They've been wonderful, bless their hearts."
The Early Days Of Captivity
The lives of Ariel Castro’s three victims were filled with horror and pain.
He kept them confined in the basement before allowing them to reside upstairs, still behind locked walls with gaps for food to pass through. As restrooms, they used plastic buckets, which Castro rarely emptied.
Castro, to make matters worse, enjoyed playing mind games with his victims. To tempt them with freedom, he would occasionally leave their door open. When he eventually captured them, he'd beat them up.
In the meantime, Castro obliged the ladies to celebrate their "abduction day," which commemorated the anniversaries of their incarceration, rather than their birthdays.
Year after year, with frequent sexual and physical assault, it continued on like this. Year after year, season after season, the women locked on Seymour Avenue saw the world go by — they even watched the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton on a small, blurry black-and-white television.
During this time, the three ladies learned a few things: how to deal with Castro, how to figure out what was going on in the house, and how to mask their inner thoughts.
Above all, they understood that he was a sadist who thrived on their suffering. They learned to keep their emotions disguised at all times by masking their emotions.
They went on like this for years until something changed. Amanda Berry found she was pregnant after years of rape.
What Each Woman Faced
Ariel Castro had no intention of include a child in his heinous scheme.
He insisted on Berry continuing the pregnancy, and when she went into labor, he made her give birth in a kiddie pool to avoid a mess. Knight, who had her own son, helped with the delivery. They were relieved when the baby arrived, healthy as any other.
The women lived together but apart, as if in a dollhouse, and were always at the mercy of the guy in charge, who came and went as he pleased.
Michelle Knight was usually paired with Gina DeJesus, but being the group's most rebellious member, Knight got into a lot of difficulty with Castro.
He'd deprive her of food, bind her to a support beam in the basement, and beat and rape her on a regular basis. She was pregnant at least five times, according to her count, but none of them made it to term because Castro wouldn't allow them, abusing her to the point where her stomach was permanently damaged.
Meanwhile, Amanda Berry and her daughter, Jocelyn, were held in a small room that was shut from the outside. While still locked in the house, they'd pretend to stroll to school, Berry doing her best to maintain some semblance of normalcy.
Berry also kept a journal about her life in the house and noted each time Castro raped her.
DeJesus suffered a similar fate to the other two victims. Her family continued to look for her, oblivious to the fact that she was not far from home, imprisoned in the home of a guy they knew. Castro once bumped into her mother and stole a missing person flyer she was passing out.
He presented the flier to DeJesus with her own face mirrored back, begging to be discovered, in a sarcastic gesture of cruelty.
Escape At Long Last
It seemed like the women’s confinement would never end. Any chance they had of seeing freedom decreased year after year. Everything changed on a warm day in May of 2013, roughly a decade after the kidnappings.
The day felt odd to Knight, like if something bad was going to happen. Castro failed to lock the door behind him as he drove to a local McDonald's.
Jocelyn ran downstairs and then ran back up. "I can't seem to locate Daddy." "Daddy is nowhere to be found," she explained. "Mom, Daddy's automobile is nowhere to be found."
Amanda Berry's bedroom door was opened for the first time in ten years, and Ariel Castro was nowhere to be seen.
"Should I take a chance?" " Berry pondered. "I need to do it now if I'm going to do it."
She approached the front door, which was unlocked but had an alarm system installed. She was able to get her arm through the padlocked storm door behind it and scream:
“Somebody, please, please help me. I’m Amanda Berry, please.”
She was able to signal a passing motorist, Charles Ramsey, who assisted her in breaking down the door. Ramsey then dialed 911, and Berry begged for help:
"I was abducted, and I've been missing for ten years, and now I'm free," she said, pleading with the dispatcher to send officers to 2207 Seymour Avenue to assist her fellow inmates.
Michelle Knight was afraid Castro had returned and had grabbed Berry in her quest to freedom when she heard hammering on the ground floor.
She didn't realize she was finally free of Castro until the cops stormed the house and took her up.
For the first time in a decade, Knight and DeJesus followed the officers out of the house, squinting in the Ohio sun.
"The first time I was actually allowed to sit outside, feel the sun, it was so warm, so bright....It was like God was throwing a great light on me," Knight later recalled.
The End Of Ariel Castro
Castro was arrested for aggravated murder, rape, and kidnapping on the same day the women won their freedom.
During his trial, he testified on his own behalf. Castro painted himself and the three ladies as equal victims of his sexual addiction, defiant and repentant in equal measure.
He maintained that his crimes were not nearly as awful as they appeared and that his victims cooperated with him as willing partners in some comfort.
"Most, if not all, of the intercourse that went on in that residence, was consensual," the insane kidnapper claimed in court.
"These charges that I used to force on them are completely false. Because there were occasions when they'd even ask for sex from me — and there were a lot of them. I also discovered that these ladies were not virgins. They had several partners before me, all three of them, according to their evidence."
Michelle Knight testified against Castro for the first time, mentioning his name.
She'd never called him by his name before to protect him from wielding control over her, instead referring to him as "he" or "the dude."
"You robbed me of 11 years of my life," she exclaimed.
Castro was condemned to life in prison plus 1,000 years. He spent a little more than a month in prison, under far nicer conditions than the ones he put his victims through.
On September 3, 2013, he committed suicide in his prison cell by hanging himself with his bedsheets.