Friday, July 26, 2013

Cleveland Man Who Held Three in Captivity Gets 1000 year Sentence

Ariel Castro, the creepy 52 yr old guy who held three abducted girls in captivity for 9-12 years, just got sentenced to 1K years in prison. Yes, that's a thousand years. Without parole which, duh, is kind of a given since he wouldn't be eligible for, like, three hundred years.

After abducting each of the three girls by offering them rides home, he kept them captive until just recently. The girls are now women. The first to be taken was 20 year old Michelle Knight. During her years in captivity Castro raped and impregnated her several times, beat and starved her during each pregnancy, estimated to be five times throughout the years, until she miscarried evey time. Knight, whom police had determined to have disappeared on her own due to her age and her lifestyle, is now 32 years old.

Amanda Berry was the second young woman to be taken, at age 16. She was also raped and impregnated and gave birth to a now-six-year-old little girl. Ariel Castro, the monster responsible, actually had the audacity to ask for visitation as part of his sentencing agreement. On the one hand, he IS the girl's father and she's lived with him her whole life, but on the other, nobody really knows what their relationship was like except the mother, who is trying to deal with being a free woman, and life in 2013, along with everything that's happened in the outside world in the more than ten years since she disappeared. Not to mention learning how to deal with the eveyday life of a mother who will now have to learn about things like registering her child for school, helping her learn how to make friends and socialize with other children, etc. Remember, this is a mother who, now 27, was abducted in her mid-teens and had not seen the light of day since then. The judge wisely denied Castro's request.

The third young woman, Gina DeJesus, was a quiet, young teenager when she disappeared nine years ago. Now 23, she is the one who has most shunned publicity since the women were released. She's been reluctant to talk to the media about her ordeal, but we know through court records that she, too, was sexually abused, though she claims to have never gotten pregnant.

The women were able to escape from Castro one day when had left the house (I hesitate to call it a home because, to the women, it was more like a prison and he an abusive warden.) He failed to secure a heavy front door which he normally kept locked (many of the doors in the house wre found by police to have strong locks on them). Amanda Berry was able to open the front door and then force the storm door open a couple of inches, enough to scream for help, getting the attention of neighbor Charles Ramsey. Ramsey and another man broke the lower half of the door so Berry and her daughter could get out. She immediately asked Ramsey, who at first thought he was rescuing Berry from a simple domestic dispute, to call 911. After police arrived Berry told them about the other two womentrapped in the house. They were immediately rescued by police.

Ramsey, whose news interviews went viral, making him an overnight internet sensation, continually tried to refocus attention on the women and their families. But first he commented on how he got involved. He and Castro had been neighbors for a year or so, doing neighborly things. In Ramsey's eyes, Castro was just a regular guy who would spend time in his yard, playing eith his dogs, or on the driveway tinkering with his cars and motorcycles. Ramsey said they had shared ribs at barbecues and listened to salsa music together. On the day of the rescue, Ramsey was sitting out on his front porch, as he often did, eating a McDonald's lunch, when he heard a young woman yelling for help. He and a neighbor went to investigate, Ramsey, still holding his half-eaten burger. Ramsey's demeanor and his mention of his Big Mac sandwich both to the 911 operator and local media garnered him a year's worth of free food at McDonald's. But, when other parties spoke of donations and fundraising, he asked that any money raised or gifts awarde be given to the freed women and their families.

So now the women are trying to adjust to their new lives, trying to fit in with their famy members. Everything's changed. Every ONE has changed. Berry's mother never gave up hope that her daughter would come home. In 2004 she appeared on a talk show with a psychic who told her Amanda was dead. She refused to accept that and continued hoping until she passed away two years later. Berry, who as a teen was working at a neighborhood Burger King, had been abducted after a accepting what she thought would be a ride home from Castro, who claimed his son worked at Burger King.

Michele Knight was the mother of a young son when she was taken. Ironically she had a court date that day, a hearing to regain custody of her little boy who had been removed from her care by child services. There's little information available about the child, now barely a teen, or why Knight had accepted a ride from Castro.

The youngest of the three women, Gina DeJesus, was actually a friend of the divorced Castro's daughter. The two girls had planned a sleepover at the friends house. After calling her mother for permission and being denied, Castro's daughter headed home to her mother's house. At some point Castro picked up DeJesus, offering to drop her at home but instead taking her to his house of horrors.

After much investigation by police and several court hearings, during which Castro was charged with over 500 counts for the kidnappings and more than 400 counts of rape and sexual crimes, he pled guilty yesterday to 937 of the nearly 1000 charges. His thousand year sentence combined with a sentence of life without the possibility of parole guarantees that the 52 year old Castro will die in prison. And yet, despite that, he wants to maintain contact with his daughter, asking for visitation as part of his parental rights. Fortunately for the child and her mother, a victim of kidnapping and multiple rapes, the judge denied his request. Neither mother nor child will ever have to see Castro again.  As part of his plea agreement, Castro has forfeited all of his property and material goods and is prohibited from profitting from his crimes. The city of Cleveland has announced plans to demolish Castro's house lest it become a macabre tourist attraction and neighborhood nuisance, not to mention a constant reminder of the horror that took place on the property over the last decade or so. The city took the same position when it demolished the house lived in by Anthony Sowell. Sowell was convicted of multiple killings of women over several years and is now in prison. Just last week a man was charged with in the deaths of three women. He claims to be a "fan" of Sowell and so tried to continue what he saw as Sowell's work.

One good thing may come out of Castro's actions. Because of his ridiculous claim that he, as a non-custodial parent, had a right to visitation with his little girl, several legislators have begun working on a bill that would take away all parental rights from any man convicted of rape who, as a result of that rape fathered a child. Because they are just beginning discussions on the bill it has not been said whether that would also absolve the rapist/biological father from financial responsibilities like child support. I'll address that later when the bill is further along in its development.

But for now there has been cause for celebration as these young women re-enter normal lives. Families and friends who have held out hope over the years, who regularly posted flyers and held vigils, are quietly and respectfully helping the women adjust. The Cleveland Courage Fund, established to accept donations for the victims, will help them establish their own homes and get the treatment and help they need to start living again.