$8 Million Bail for Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect

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CLEVELAND -- A man accused of kidnapping and raping three women who were found alive in his home after a decade of captivity was ordered held on $8 million bail on Thursday.

The suspect, Ariel Castro, 52, appearing in court for the first time since his arrest on Monday, was arraigned in municipal court in Cleveland. Mr. Castro did not speak and kept his head down and his eyes lowered during the proceedings.

The hearing came a day after Mr. Castro was charged with the rape and kidnapping of Amanda Berry, held 10 years; Gina DeJesus, held 9 years; and Michelle Knight, held 11 years. He was also charged in the kidnapping of the 6-year-old daughter Ms. Berry gave birth to during her captivity; the authorities said he would undergo a paternity test. The judge, Lauren Moore, set his bail at $2 million for each of the four cases.

On Thursday afternoon, Timothy J. McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said he might seek the death penalty against Mr. Castro for the "traumatic decade-long ordeal that few among us are capable of ever understanding." Mr. McGinty said he would consider filing aggravated murder charges related to Mr. Castro allegedly inducing miscarriages in the women.

During the hearing, prosecutors described the decade of abuse as a "horrifying ordeal," in which the women were beaten, bound and sexually assaulted. Mr. Castro's lawyer argued for a lower bond, noting that he had lived in the city for 39 years and had no prior felony convictions.

Mr. Castro's brothers Onil Castro, 50, and Pedro Castro, 54, also appeared in court on Thursday morning to sort out prior misdemeanor charges not related to the kidnapping case. The judge released the two brothers. Pedro Castro was fined $100 after pleading no contest to an open-container charge; and the charges against Onil Castro for drug abuse and having an open container were dismissed.

New details continued to emerge on Thursday about the kidnappings, including how the women had been abducted. In each case, the women accepted Mr. Castro's offer of a ride home while they were walking down the street, according to a police report that included the first statements the women gave after their rescue. The report had a chilling detail: Mr. Castro's daughter was a close friend of one of the victims.

Ms. Berry was 17 when she was abducted as she left her job at a Burger King. Mr. Castro gained her trust by telling her that his son worked for the fast-food chain and offered her a ride home, according to the police report, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Ms. DeJesus, who was only 14 when she disappeared, was friends with Mr. Castro's daughter Arlene Castro. Mr. Castro approached her with his daughter on April 2, 2004, according to the account Ms. DeJesus gave police. Shortly after, "Ariel came back without his daughter, and told Gina he would give her a ride to his house to meet up with his daughter," the report said.

The accounts by Ms. DeJesus and the other women were made immediately after officers freed them from Mr. Castro's sealed-up house on Seymour Avenue, as they sat in a police vehicle. Since Mr. Castro's arrest, news accounts have focused on the connections between the Castro and DeJesus families, including reports that Mr. Castro attended a vigil for the missing girl.

But in a description of Ms. DeJesus's disappearance that Arlene Castro gave a year later in 2005, she apparently did not mention that her father spoke with Ms. DeJesus that day while she was present.

In an interview with the television show "America's Most Wanted," Ms. Castro told of walking from school with her friend Gina. The two girls planned to spend the afternoon at Ms. DeJesus's home. Ms. Castro said she borrowed 50 cents from her friend to call and ask for permission from her mother, who did not live with her father. "Mom said no, that I can't go over to her house," Ms. Castro said in the interview. The two girls parted. Ms. DeJesus disappeared shortly after.

The different accounts seemed to raise an important question: Did the police task force searching for Ms. DeJesus ever hear that Mr. Castro might have been one of the last adults to interact with her before she vanished?

Ed Tomba, the deputy police chief in Cleveland, said at a news conference on Wednesday that the police had never interviewed Mr. Castro before his arrest on Monday. A request for further comment from the police was not immediately returned.

On Wednesday, Ms. DeJesus, now 23, and Ms. Berry, 27, returned joyfully to their families' homes. A day later, a half dozen news crews and photographers lingered across the street from Ms. Berry's house, their cameras at the ready for any sighting of Ms. Berry or her child. At the DeJesus home, a blue tarp had been strung from the house to the adjacent garage, blocking the side yard from public view.

Ms. Knight, the oldest of the women and the longest held, was the only one who had not been released to relatives yet. She remained hospitalized in the MetroHealth Medical Center.

Trip Gabriel reported from Cleveland, and Serge F. Kovaleski and Emma G. Fitzsimmons from New York. Steven Yaccino contributed reporting from Cleveland, and Erica Goode from New York. Research was contributed by Jack Begg, Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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