The home of horrors: Neighbours of 2207 Seymour Avenue express their disbelief at abductions



Last year, Jamie Camacho, a Cleveland taxi driver who’s been singing with local Latin bands for decades, made a stop at a vigil to mark the disappearance of Gina DeJesus. He was just “cruising by” when Mr Camacho saw a motorcycle belonging to Ariel Castro, whose house on 2207 Seymour Avenue is just a couple of blocks up from Mr Camacho’s on Walton Avenue, on the west side of town.

Mr Camacho knew Ariel as a neighbour and a bass guitarist who frequented many of the same gigs and clubs. He eventually found the 52-year-old in the crowd and they got talking. Jamie expressed his hope that Gina, who went missing in 2004 while walking home from middle school, and Amanda Berry, another local girl who went missing in 2003, would be found alive.

“I said I wish the creep who took them is caught and put in one of those open prisons – not locked up by himself – so the other prisoners can beat him up,” Jamie said this week after Ariel and his brothers, 54-year-old Pedro and 50-year-old Onil, were arrested in connection with the abduction of Gina, Amanda and Michelle Knight, who went missing in 2002.

“Ariel said he agreed with me,” Jamie said. “He said, ‘Yes, I agree.’” 

Now, as forensic teams pore over the house on Seymour Avenue, Jamie and the wider Cleveland community are struggling to comprehend the horrors that lurked behind its doors, and to make the allegations fit with their memories of the three Castro brothers.

Of the three suspects, Ariel was known the widest: a school bus driver who was fired from his job last year, and whom local musicians knew for his skill as a bassist. According to county documents, he bought the two-storey, four-bedroom house with a 760 sq ft basement for $12,000 from Edwin and Antonia Castro in 1992.

The surrounding area has a large Hispanic population which has grown significantly in recent decades. Ariel’s family are said to have been among the earlier arrivals, with some members moving to Ohio from Puerto Rico soon after the Second World War. The brothers’ uncle Edwin opened Cleveland’s first Latino record store in the late 1970s, although it is not known whether it is this Edwin who sold Ariel the house.

The Seymour Avenue property currently faces foreclosure because Ariel owes thousands of dollars in unpaid taxes on it. Pictures of the inside of the house that have emerged show a padlock on the door to the basement. Ariel’s son, 31-year-old Anthony, has said the basement was off limits to him on the occasions he visited the property since graduating from high school. The same went for the garage and the attic. “There were places we could never go,” he said from Columbus, where he lives.

Tito DeJesus, a Cleveland area pianist who knew Ariel but who is not related to Gina DeJesus, last visited the property in 2011. He was moving from a house to an apartment and had sold his washer-dryer and other household items to Castro. “I was helping him move [them],” Mr DeJesus said. “I was only there for a few minutes. He invited me in for a beer. But I had to hurry – I had a gig. There was regular furniture. I didn’t go very far inside. He had his instruments out and about and used [them] as decorations.”

Today, Cleveland’s police chief Michael McGrath revealed that the house also contained chains. “We have confirmed that they [the women] were bound, and there [were] chains and ropes in the home,” he told NBC. Once in a while, the captives were released into the backyard, he added.

Israel Lugo, who lives two houses down from 2207 Seymour Avenue, has spoken of how he, his family and other neighbours called the police three times between 2011 and 2012 after noticing odd goings-on at the Castro house – including seeing three women or girls with leashes around their necks crawling around the back yard. The neighbours who saw this told Mr Lugo that the women were being controlled by three men. They rang the police but the authorities never responded, he told USA Today. Other neighbours have spoken of regularly seeing Castro bring large bags of McDonald’s to his house, while some have recalled seeing a little girl in the attic window.

Police, meanwhile, are known to have visited the house on a number of occasions, including once when Ariel Castro was accused of leaving a child on a school bus, but they are not reported to have ventured inside. The incident with the child is one of a number of missteps – including using his bus to go grocery shopping – that appear to have caught up with Castro last year, when he was fired.

As far as Tito, Jamie and others were aware, Ariel had lived by himself after his marriage broke down more than a decade ago. A 2005 court filing shows that, years after Ariel parted ways with his wife Grimilda Figueroa, who took custody of their children, he was accused of beating her so severely that he twice broke her nose, broke her ribs, dislocated both shoulders and triggered a blood clot in her brain. Ms Figueroa, whose lawyer also claimed Castro frequently abducted his daughters despite having no custody rights, died last year. Mr Camacho last saw Ms Figueroa around seven years ago when he ran into her at a nightclub, long after she’d left Ariel, reportedly in the 1990s. “She said he was too possessive with her. She said [sometimes] he would lock her in the house when he went out,” he said.

Ariel’s brother Pedro is reported to have lived with their mother. Locals said they had seen him around Seymour Avenue but didn’t know him. Nelson Roman, a close friend of the brothers, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that Pedro was a bright student at high school and once worked at a local factory. But that came to an end when he began drinking heavily. Mr Roman said that in recent years Pedro had been living off state benefits.

Neither Pedro nor the youngest brother, Onil, were ever married, according to Mr Roman. Ariel’s son Anthony has said that Onil owned a house and lived alone after splitting many years ago with a live-in girlfriend with whom he had two sons.

Mr Roman, meanwhile, added that Onil also drank heavily, although he earned a living working as a handyman until he was hurt while working as a labourer. In recent years, he is said to have been receiving workers’ compensation cheques.

“I was flabbergasted. I had no idea,” Mr DeJesus said, recalling the moment he heard about the women held captive at Ariel’s house.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
A boy holds a chick during the Russian National Agricultural Exhibition Golden Autumn 2014 in Moscow on October 9, 2014.
Life and Style
love + sex
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle v United 1 player ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th-century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Media Sales Account Managers - Radio

£16000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Cheshire's number 1 commercial ...

Recruitment Genius: Software Support Analyst

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Looking for a career in custome...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - Managed Services Provider

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Eng...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot