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Cleveland kidnapper on suicide watch

10 May 2013, 08:50

Cleveland - A former school bus driver accused of kidnapping and raping three women during a decade of captivity in his house appeared briefly in a Cleveland court on Thursday, standing silently with his head bowed before returning to jail where his lawyer said he would be isolated and placed on suicide watch.

A judge set bond for the suspect, Ariel Castro, at $8m - $2m each for the three young women and a child born in captivity.

The women and child fled his house in a low-income neighbourhood of Cleveland, Ohio on Monday, and the appearance in Cleveland Municipal Court marked the first time Castro, 52, had been seen in public since his arrest a few hours after their escape.

Castro's home "was a prison to these three women and the child", Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy told the Municipal Court judge.

"Today the situation is turned on him," Murphy said. "Mr Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner."

The $8m bond set by Judge Lauren Moore was higher than the $5m requested by the prosecutor.

The judge also ordered Castro to have no contact with the victims or their families.

Their imprisonment came to an end on Monday after neighbours, drawn by cries for help, broke through a door to rescue Amanda Berry, whose disappearance in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday was widely publicised in the local media.

Rescued with Berry, now 27, was her 6-year-old daughter, conceived and born during her confinement, and fellow captives Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who went missing in 2002.


Officials say Berry, DeJesus and Knight were at times bound in chains or rope and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults and that Knight suffered several miscarriages deliberately induced from beatings by her captor.

Berry and DeJesus went home with family members on Wednesday, while Knight remained hospitalised in good condition.

Knight suffered substantial hearing loss and may undergo some facial reconstruction due to the years of abuse, her grandmother Deborah Knight said.

Neither Knight's grandmother nor her mother have seen her since she was rescued this week.

"She does not want to be seen by family," the grandmother said.

During the court proceedings that lasted less than five minutes, Castro who is dark-haired and balding, was expressionless, his hands in cuffs and his head bowed low.

He was formally charged on Wednesday with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. He neither spoke nor entered a plea during his initial court appearance on Thursday.

Castro kept his face turned away from the gallery that was crowded with media and spectators.

"He did not want to be on camera," his court-appointed lawyer, Kathleen DeMetz, said after the hearing.


She said Castro would need $800 000 cash - 10% of the bond amount - to get out of jail.

"The man doesn't have any money," she said. "He clearly doesn't have that."

DeMetz told the court that Castro was unemployed. Castro was fired from his job driving school buses last November.

He would be placed on a suicide watch in jail and is expected to be held in isolation, the lawyer said.

Initially, Castro's two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, were also arrested as suspects, but investigators determined they had no knowledge of the abductions or captivity of the women.

They appeared in court on Thursday morning on unrelated outstanding misdemeanour charges and were released.

Berry, DeJesus and Knight were held in the home's basement for long periods, restrained with ropes and chains and occasionally starved, according to authorities who described the condition of the home as squalid.

During captivity, Knight suffered at least five miscarriages that she told police were intentionally caused by her captor starving her and beating her in the abdomen, according to an initial police report.

Berry told police that her escape on Monday had been her first chance to break free in the 10 years that she was held, seizing the opportunity during Castro's momentary absence.

Berry's baby was born in a plastic inflatable children's swimming pool on Christmas Day, 2006, authorities said. A paternity test will be conducted to determine the girl's father.

Authorities said the women recalled leaving the confines of the house just twice during their captivity, ushered on both occasions into a separate garage on the small lot while disguised in wigs and hats.

The women also told police their abductions occurred when Castro offered them rides and they accepted, authorities said.

- Reuters


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