Cleveland Kidnapping

05.08.13

How Could Alleged Kidnapper Ariel Castro Be Allowed to Drive a School Bus?

Ariel Castro, accused of kidnapping three Cleveland women, was a school bus driver with a long, long list of traffic infractions. Steve Miller digs up the suspect’s rap sheet.

Despite a driving record that included numerous points for moving violations and a move by the state to suspend his license, Ariel Castro drove a school bus for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for over 20 years, before being fired in November 2012.

Records show Castro had numerous encounters with local police while driving, from illegal parking in July 1995 to failing to obey a traffic device in January 2001.

The infractions pose yet another question as to how Castro was able to carry on his life in a most average fashion, even as he allegedly held three women against their will in his modest four-bedroom, one-bath home on Cleveland’s west side.

Though the relatively minor infractions on their own were not a cause for further investigation under ordinary circumstances, they do show Castro's struggle to perform a task—driving—that provided him his primary source of income.

Castro, 52, was arrested Monday along with his brothers, Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54, in connection with the kidnapping and imprisonment of three local women who had been missing for up to 10 years. They have not yet been charged.

Ariel Castro was hired by the Cleveland school district in February 1991, according to records released by the district Tuesday. He was fired November 6, 2012, after leaving his bus unattended at a local school and walking home.

Castro allegedly told a lone male passenger, a student, to “lie down, bitch.”

“I went home to rest,” Castro wrote to the school district in explaining his actions. “I’ve been helping depot with many routes that needed coverage. I felt tired all day.”

It was his fourth infraction.

During his tenure as a driver, Castro was suspended three times: for making an illegal U-turn with a bus filled with kids, for using a school bus to run personal errands, and for leaving a student on a bus.

In the last case, in 2004, Castro allegedly told a lone male passenger, a student, to “lay down, bitch” while Castro went into a Wendy’s to eat, according to a Cleveland Police Department report.

Here is a list of Castro’s personal driving infractions, according to city records:

* July 13, 1995: Parking near a curb/handicapped parking; pleaded guilty, assessed $55 total fine and court costs.

* September 13, 2000: Running a stop sign and displaying the wrong license plate; pleaded no contest to the stop sign. He was assessed fines and court costs of $245 and found not guilty on the license plate allegation. He was assessed two points on his driving record for the stop sign.

* January 29, 2001: Failure to obey a traffic device; found guilty, paid $95 and accrued two more points on his record.

* February 23, 2004: Suspension action taken by the state on points. Castro immediately appealed and in March was granted temporary privileges for three months, from March 11 to June 21. He paid a fine of $66.

* July 11, 2005: Cited for excess noise and emissions from his car and operating a vehicle with improper windshield glass. He was found not guilty on the emissions charge and guilty on the glass. He paid $285.

* June 20, 2008: Cited for lack of proper license and improper glass. Both charges were dismissed.

The school district will not hire a driver who has accumulated more than two points on his or her driver’s license in the past two years, according to its Web page. Castro accumulated more than two points after he was hired. Drivers must also obtain a commercial driver’s license within three months of hire. Calls to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District for comment Wednesday morning were not answered.

On Tuesday, police released a video that shows Castro being stopped on June 12, 2008. That day, the temperature hit a record 93 degrees and Castro took his motorcycle out for a spin. He stopped at a Shell station to fuel up, when a police cruiser pulled up on him. It was 8:35 p.m.

“Let me see your driver’s license,” the officer said.

“What’s wrong?” Castro asked the officer.

“First off, your plate’s improperly displayed,” the officer told him. “It has to be displayed left to right, not upside down or sideways.”

Castro mumbled something.

“The law says you have to be able to read it from behind,” the officer said.

Castro replied, “I just got it out so—”

“Where’s your motorcycle endorsement?” the office asked.

“That I don’t have.”

“Another question is why you riding it then?” the officer said. “You don’t have a helmet on, you don’t have a license to operate it—you’re setting yourself to be arrested, is that what you want?”

“No, sir, I don’t.

It doesn’t appear that the videotaped detention and the June 20 charges were related.

An arrest may or may not have resulted in a deeper dive by police into Castro and his dark secret. But it may have put him on the radar of local law enforcement.

Records also show that Castro had fallen behind in his property-tax payments beginning in 2010. He had kept up with payments since buying the house for $12,000 in 1992, but currently owes $2,501, including interest and penalties.