The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

August 1, 2013

Prosecutor says sentencing to prove Castro is monster

CLEVELAND — When Ariel Castro was first arrested and charged with imprisoning and raping three women in his house on a tough Cleveland street over a decade, his attorneys said evidence would show that he was not a monster.

The county prosecutor says the facts he’ll present Thursday at Castro’s sentencing, where Castro faces life in prison plus 1,000 years, will prove the lawyers wrong.

“You’ll make the same logical judgment when you see the facts,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said Friday after Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault.  “You have not seen the evidence yet.”

McGinty hasn’t said whether the three women will testify in person. The legal team representing the women’s interests declined to comment on whether they would testify or send statements to the court.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

There was no immediate comment Wednesday from Castro’s defense team.

Many horrific details of the women’s ordeal have already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement or a bedroom heater or inside a van, with one woman forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, having a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.

Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced the same woman on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to prohibit Castro from ever seeing his daughter, now 6.

McGinty says experts will also discuss the Stockholm syndrome to explain how Castro was able to keep the women captive for so long. The syndrome describes situations where hostages and victims of abduction begin to sympathize with their captors and even defend them. It was named for a 1973 bank hostage situation in Stockholm, Sweden.

Castro so terrified the women that the day they were rescued, two of the victims were initially afraid to emerge even with five police officers in the house, McGinty said. When they did, they clung to police so tightly the officers couldn’t use their flashlights, he said.

“That told me what fear this man put into these women and how much courage it took to survive this ordeal,” McGinty said.

He also referred to the “mental and physical bond and barrier” that the first woman who escaped, Amanda Berry, had the courage to break.

McGinty hinted last week at some of the conditions found inside the house, including keeping the lights turned off and using curtains as sound barriers.

Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house. The third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for their support.

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