Ohio kidnapping: Accused could face death penalty

Ariel Castro is accused of four kidnap and three rape charges. Picture: AP
Ariel Castro is accused of four kidnap and three rape charges. Picture: AP
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Detectives were searching for other potential victims of the Ohio kidnap accused Ariel Castro yesterday as prosecutors began to build a possible death penalty case against him for ­aggravated murder.

Police believe that Castro, 52, could be behind the disappearance of other young women in the Cleveland area in addition to the three who were freed on Monday after a decade of ­captivity.

They could learn this weekend if a sample of the suspect’s DNA, which was sent to the state’s crime laboratory on Thursday, matches evidence from unsolved murders or rapes.

Authorities also announced yesterday that the sample confirmed Castro was the father of a girl, now six, who was born to one of his alleged victims, Amanda Berry, during the time she was held at his Seymour Street house.

Timothy McGinty, prosecutor for Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, said that four kidnap and three rape charges that Castro already faces might be upgraded to murder based on the testimony of Michelle Knight, another one of the three women held captive.

She told investigators that Castro made her pregnant at least five times while she was his prisoner, and that he forced her to miscarry each time because of starvation or beatings.

Mr McGinty said he planned to convene a grand jury to look into the case and establish whether charges of aggravated murder can be brought against Castro, which could carry the death penalty.

“Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct,” he said.

“This child kidnapper operated a torture chamber and private prison in the heart of our city. The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond ­comprehension.”

Castro, a former school bus driver, remained behind bars yesterday as the alleged victims – all snatched from the same street in the city of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 – continued their recoveries.

Miss Berry, 27, and daughter Jocelyn, and the third woman, Georgina DeJesus, 23, have ­returned home to their families.

Miss Knight, 32, was released from hospital yesterday. Court documents filed before Castro’s first court appearance on Thursday claimed that he beat and raped the women regularly, tied them up with ropes and chains and allowed them out only twice.

Angie Gregg, Castro’s daughter, denounced her father as “the most evil, vile, demonic criminal” in her first interview since his arrest.

“He is dead to me. There will be no visits, there will be no phone calls,” she said. “He can never be Daddy again. I have no sympathy for the man. I wonder this whole time how he could be so good to us but he took young women, little girls, someone else’s babies, away from these families and over the years never felt enough guilt to just give up and let them free.”

She added that she knew Miss Berry and Miss DeJesus from her school days and she hoped their families would understand her father’s alleged crimes were not representative. “We don’t have monster in our blood,” she said.

Lillian Rodriguez, Castro’s mother, also addressed the women’s families. “I have a son who is sick who has committed something serious,” she said. “I am suffering a lot. I ask for forgiveness from those mothers.”