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Lawyers: Castro to Plead Not Guilty

Lawyers: Castro to Plead Not Guilty Ariel Castro. (Cuyahoga County Jail/AP)

Says he still loves his and Amanda Berry’s daughter.

Lawyers for Ariel Castro, the man accused of kidnapping and imprisoning three Cleveland women for over a decade, said he will plead not guilty. Attorneys Craig Weintraub and Jaye Schlachet said their client has been portrayed has been wrongly depicted as a “monster” in the media, and they find it wrong that “the media and the community want to demonize this man before they know the whole story.” Weintraub said Castro had not admitted anything to him, including the kidnappings—and Schlachet said Castro is “extremely committed to the well-being and positive future of his daughter, who he loves dearly.” Castro, 52, is being held on $8 million bail on charges of rape and kidnapping of Michelle Knight, Gina DeJesus, and Amanda Berry, who gave birth to a daughter while in captivity.

Read it at WKYC-TV

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Behind Bars

Castro’s Prison Fantasy

The Cleveland kidnapper showed a stunning lack of self-awareness at his sentencing—and his victim complex will only get worse in the clink, writes Mansfield Frazier.

Hitler didn’t think he was a monster. Neither did Anthony Sowell, Ted Bundy, or Jeffery Dahmer. There’s strong evidence that the human mind is not capable of viewing the self in such a manner—in their minds, they were (or are) simply misunderstood.

Missing Women Found

Tony Dejak/AP

Ariel Castro proved the truthfulness of that dictum Thursday in the rambling statement he made as he stood before the bar of justice to receive a sentence of life in jail plus 1,000 years. Castro blamed his terrible actions on practically everything save for own mind: the supposed fact that he was sexually abused as a child, the FBI for not finding the girls more easily, even the victims themselves for getting in his car. He wanted the entire world to know that he isn’t really a bad person. He posited that maybe it was his addiction to pornography that led him down this dark road—failing to comprehend that every alcoholic started off drinking milk.

Over and over again in the four-hour sentencing, Castro attempted to play the victim card, but Judge Michael Russo wasn’t going for it; whatever the length of the sentences he handed down, the judge said, it would not in any way be in proportion to what he did to the three women.


Photos From Castro’s House Revealed

Photos From Castro’s House Revealed via Twitter

Shows chains used to keep women captive.

At Ariel Castro’s sentencing Thursday, prosecutors revealed photos of the inside of his house of horrors. The photo above is from the room that Amanda Berry shared with her daughter. The other images are chilling as well—one shows a bedroom with several stuffed animals and children’s toys, while others show chains used to hold the women. During his sentencing, Castro apologized to the victims.

Read it at NBC News


Nelly Sings to Amanda Berry

Nelly Sings to Amanda Berry Hennes Paynter Communications, via AP

As she makes her first public appearance

Just one day after her captor was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Cleveland kidnapping victim Amanda Berry made a triumphant first public appearance at an all-day concert in Ohio. Introduced by rapper Nelly, Berry walked on stage to loud cheers of support. "She waved to the crowd, everyone went crazy cheering," said one concertgoer. Nelly serenaded a smiling Berry after telling the crowd he thought she had "lots to catch up on." It was Berry's frantic call to 911 in May that led police to Ariel Castro's home, where she and two other women had been held captive for nearly a decade.

Read it at Cleveland


Cleveland Kidnapper Pleads Guilty

Cleveland Kidnapper Pleads Guilty Tony Dejak/AP

Will serve life in prison without parole.

Former school bus driver turned sexual predator Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to more than 937 counts of rape, kidnapping, and assault Friday, landing him life in prison without parole—plus 1,000 years. The judge made it clear to Castro that his decision to accept the plea deal means that he will never attend a trial. The 53-year-old—who held three women captive in his Cleveland home for nearly a decade—told the judge he had “sexual problems” and an addiction to pornography. “I would just like to say that I was also a victim as a child,” Castro added at the end.

Read it at USA Today

Life or Death

Does Castro Have to Die?

Throwing the death penalty at alleged kidnapper Ariel Castro will turn an open-and-shut legal case into a long, expensive mess, opponents of the move tell Mansfield Frazier.

Has the prosecutor in the Ariel Castro case gone too far?

Anti-death-penalty advocates are fuming over the fact that Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty is preparing to present aggravated-murder charges to the grand jury against Ariel Castro in his upcoming kidnapping and torture case. At least one of the victims, Michelle Knight, has stated that she suffered multiple forced pregnancy terminations while being held in captivity for over a decade, thus opening the alleged perpetrator up to death-penalty sentencing, at least according to McGinty.

APTOPIX Missing Women Found

Ariel Castro appears in Cleveland municipal court. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Nonetheless, some are accusing the prosecutor of demonstrating a disregard for the ongoing and long-term welfare of the victims simply because he wants to grandstand and play to public outrage in the perhaps the highest-profile case in Ohio crime history.

Real Estate

Torch That House!

Even as cops search the Cleveland home of Ariel Castro for evidence, neighbors are desperate to see it destroyed. Christine Pelisek on the debate—and who will pay the demolition bill.

What will become of Ariel Castro’s house of horrors?

For now, the Cleveland home where the 52-year-old former schoolbus driver allegedly held Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight hostage for a decade, beating them and raping them until they were freed last week, is still considered an active crime scene. The windows and doors have been boarded up (by the same construction crew that shuttered the home of serial killer Anthony Sowell in 2009), and a 10-foot-high chain-link fence has been erected around the dilapidated two-story, four-bedroom home on Seymour Avenue.

Missing Women Found

Law-enforcement officials gather evidence from Ariel Castro's Cleveland home. (David Duprey/AP)

But even as police continue their investigation, neighbors are anxious for the Castro home to be wiped off the map.

Cold Case

Where Was Castro in 1981?

As charges against the alleged Cleveland kidnapper pile up, an Ohio group is trying to link him to the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl 30 years ago. Christine Pelisek reports.

The charges have come in against accused rapist and kidnapper Ariel Castro, and there are many: three counts of rape, four counts of kidnapping, even possible charges of aggravated murder, which could carry the death penalty, stemming from the forced miscarriages Michelle Knight allegedly suffered at Castro’s hands.


Tammy Seals. (The Plain Dealer/Landov)

Could more be on the way? The FBI and Cleveland police announced Friday that they will take a closer look at two cold cases in light of this week’s events: the disappearances of 18-year-old Christina Adkins in 1995 and 14-year-old Ashley Summers in 2007. When Summers vanished, authorities believed she might be linked to Knight and Castro’s two other known victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus.

To be sure, officials cautioned that no new information about either woman has emerged—rather, news of the Castro case has spiked interest in other similar disappearances.

How are regular Ohio folks reacting to the Cleveland horror? Mansfield Frazier went to the iconic Donna’s Diner to find out. Then he hit the bars—and heard some wild vengeance fantasies.

Donna’s Diner is a lovely place. Perhaps you’ve heard of it—it’s located “At the Corner of Hope and Worry”?

Missing Women Found

The three Castro brothers await arraignment in an Ohio courtroom. ( David Duprey/AP)

Actually, the tiny eatery is in Elyria, Ohio. But it was given front-page New York Times treatment (and that schlocky headline) this past fall, when correspondent Dan Berry penned a long, quite saccharine article about the establishment; its down-to-earth owner, 57-year-old Donna Dove; and the ways in which its daily struggles echoed the yearnings of Middle America in the days before a presidential election.

Basically, this is Anytown, USA. It’s also just 30 miles from Cleveland, now the site of the most sensational American crime story in recent memory. So I thought it would be as good a place as any to gauge the pulse of the common, everyday working man and woman in this part of the country in regard to the dramatic escape of the three Cleveland women after a decade of depraved captivity.


Castro Beat Ex-Wife, Say Relatives

Castro Beat Ex-Wife, Say Relatives Ariel Castro in court on Thursday. (Tony Dejak/AP)

Grimalda Figueroa's sister calls him a "monster."

Not unlike the three women he’s accused of having held captive for a decade, Ariel Castro frequently beat his ex-wife, played mind games with her, and locked her inside his Cleveland home, according to several relatives of Grimalda Figueroa. Castro’s ex-common law wife and the mother of his children died last year—but not before breaking free from the clutches of a man her family members called a “monster.” “I told her, ‘You stay there until I get you out,” Elida Carabello, Figueroa’s sister, told the AP, recalling an incident in which Castro once closed her into a cardboard box. “That’s when I ran downstairs to get my parents.” The brutal treatment Castro allegedly inflicted on Figueroa contradicts the “Average Joe” picture painted by his own family and friends, but lines up perfectly with the horrible crimes he’s accused of committing against Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus.

Read it at Associated Press


A Tragic Sisterhood

Despite the agony they endured, the three women held hostage in Cleveland likely forged bonds—possibly a key factor in their escape, criminal psychologists tell Christine Pelisek.

During their long years in captivity, amid the brutal beatings and rapes, the three women had no choice but to rely on each other.

Michelle Knight acted as midwife when Amanda Berry gave birth to their kidnapper’s child, administering an amateur form of CPR when the baby stopped breathing, according to a police report.  This week, when the trio finally escaped their living hell, Gina DeJesus proudly showed off a drawing by the girl, now 6 years old, as if she were a doting aunt.


(L-R) Gina DeJesus; Michelle Knight; Amanda Berry. (AP;Knight Family)

No one will truly know what kind of relationships the three women formed while they were held hostage for a decade in the home of former school bus driver Ariel Castro. Perhaps they were wary of each other, or too desensitized to connect on any level. More likely, they forged a sort of tragic sisterhood.

Bad Blood

My Neighbor the Monster

Doug Parker owns the home next to Cleveland suspect Ariel Castro. In his first interview, he recalls 20 years of confrontations, a bitter court case, and more red flags.

Not everyone in Cleveland was surprised to see Ariel Castro outed as a villain. Certainly not his next-door neighbor.


A view outside the house where Ariel Castro allegedly held captive Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight on May 9, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. Inset: Ariel Castro (Matt Sullivan/Getty; Cuyahoga County Sheriff/AP)

“We are archenemies,” says Doug Parker, who has owned the house next door to the alleged kidnapper and rapist for nearly 20 years. In an interview Thursday afternoon, Parker, 47, called his relationship with Castro a “Hatfield-McCoy thing,” referring to the notorious combatants of the legendary family beef.

“He needs to dominate, and he does it underhandedly,” Parker says. “He took my trash cans from the back of the house and told me I needed to wash them. I had been there three days.”


What the Psychic Didn’t See

The famous clairvoyant’s certainty caught up with her in the Cleveland kidnapping case—she said Amanda Berry was dead. Other mediums saw trouble coming. So why didn’t she?

Sylvia Browne doesn’t hedge.

It’s part of what makes the world-famous psychic so famous—her unflappable confidence. Check out this YouTube video from her 2009 appearance at Universal Studios with Montel Williams, where she takes questions from the crowd. One guy asks what career path he should take. “Design,” Brown says flatly.


Psychic medium and author Sylvia Browne speaks to the audience during her appearance at Route 66 Casino's Legends Theater on November 13, 2010 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. (Steve Snowden/Getty)

“Design,” the guy repeats. “OK, thank you.” A woman asks who “she” is with on the other side, without even saying who this person is. “She’s with, a, uh, balding male, she’s with a large dog, and with a little bitty woman.” Another man, a skeptic, sent there to haze Browne, to “punk” her, asks Browne how old his father was when he passed away. At first she says, “Well he was young,” without hesitation. The man lunges: “What do you mean by young?” Williams jumps in and says “Wait,” about 12 times, before Browne finally backpedals: “I think he thought he was young. See I’m 73, and I think I’m young.”

How did the alleged Cleveland kidnapper remain at liberty for so long, The Daily Beast’s Michael Daly asks, with this rap sheet? Look at the domestic violence filing here.

‘So So Sorry’

Kidnapper’s Daughter Apologizes

Kidnapper’s Daughter Apologizes Tony Dejak/AP

Says she had no idea he was hiding the women.

In a tearful interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, the daughter of suspected Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro begged Gina DeJesus—her former childhood friend—to forgive any role she had in enabling the abduction. “I am absolutely so so sorry,” the 22-year-old cried. Ariene was one of the last people to see Gina in 2004 on the day she was kidnapped—but claims she had no idea that it was her own father who did it. “[We were] not that close,” Ariene told GMA. “Every time we would talk it would just be short conversations, just a hello.” The kidnapper’s daughter says she hopes to see Gina, and introduce her to her kids.

Read it at Daily News

Castro In Court

Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping and raping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, appeared in court Thursday morning, where bond was set at $8 million.

Charles Ramsey and the Internet Sensations

The Ohio man who rescued three women from captivity Monday is trending on Twitter. And he's joined the pantheon of hilariously expressive people—from Kai to Antoine Dodson—who became Internet stars overnight.

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