Cleveland kidnappings: Ariel Castro may face death penalty over forced miscarriages

If proven the miscarriage claims could lead to murder charges

Rob Williams
Friday 10 May 2013 11:01 BST
Ariel Castro is arraigned at Cleveland Municipal Court in front of judge Lauren Moore
Ariel Castro is arraigned at Cleveland Municipal Court in front of judge Lauren Moore

An Ohio prosecutor has said he may seek the death penalty against a man accused of imprisoning three women at his home for a decade.

Police charged that 52-year-old Ariel Castro impregnated one of his captives at least five times and made her miscarry by starving her and punching her in the belly.

The allegations were contained in a police report that also said another one of the women, Amanda Berry, was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool.

If proven the miscarriage claims could lead to murder charges against the former school bus driver.

According to CBS reports Mr Castro, who made his first appearance in court yesterday, is on suicide watch in jail.

He was arrested on Monday on kidnapping and rape charges for holding three women - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - inside his home for about a decade.

The women had vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, when they 14, 16 and 20.

Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said Thursday his office will decide whether to bring aggravated murder charges punishable by death in connection with the pregnancies that were terminated by force.

"Capital punishment must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct," he said. "The reality is we still have brutal criminals in our midst who have no respect for the rule of law or human life."

Mr Castro is being held on $8 million bail and prosecutors have said he will face charges for every act of sexual violence, assault and other crimes committed against the women. Reports have suggested the counts could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

Among the details revealed in the police report were:

— Berry, now 27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Berry said she, her baby, now 6, and the two other rescued women had never been to a doctor during their captivity.

— Michelle Knight, now 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks and "repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried." She also said Castro forced her to deliver Berry's baby under threat of death if the baby died. Knight said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived her through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

— All three women said Castro chained them up in the basement but eventually let them live on the home's second floor. Each woman told a similar story about being abducted after accepting a ride from Castro.

During his brief arraignment Thursday, Castro tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his shirt collar. He appeared to close his eyes during the hearing and awkwardly signed documents while handcuffed. He did not speak or enter a plea.

In court, prosecutor Brian Murphy said Castro used the women "in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit."

Kathleen DeMetz, a public defender assigned to represent him at the hearing, didn't comment on his guilt or innocence or object when prosecutors recommended bail be set at $5 million. The judge, instead, ordered Castro held on $8 million.

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