In a reveal that swept the nation, captives Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus managed to escape Cleveland aggressor Ariel Castro after more than a decade of kidnapping, rape, and aggravated murder. Castro was charged with 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape, totaling 977 counts to which he pled “not guilty.”
A Nightmare that Spanned a Decade
Ariel Castro kidnapped Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry when they were only 14 and 16; Michelle Knight was 20 years old. The young women were kidnapped separately between 2002-2004, each accepting a car ride from Ariel Castro. Once captive, the three women were restrained by being “chained to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The charges say that one of the women tried to escape and that he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.” The three women were beaten, raped and ill-treated, and as a result Castro even fathered a six-year-old daughter. When Castro left his Cleveland home, Amanda Berry found an opportunity to wave her arms through the house door and alert several of her neighbors. Charles Ramsay ran to Castro’s house, kicked the door in, and freed Berry. Frantic and scared, Amanda Berry called 911 and explained that she had been missing for ten years. A neighbor captured the moment when the police arrived on the scene and also helped DeJesus and Knight escape Castro’s home. Neighbors were later interviewed, and attested to seeing a naked woman crawling on her hands and knees on Castro’s front lawn a few years ago, as well as bags over his windows, but pointed to lack of police response on both accounts.
The Charges against Ariel Castro
The prosecution brought up against defendant Castro 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools. Ohio law defines “gross sexual imposition” as compelling another to engage in sexual activity by purposely impairing the person’s judgment. In this case, then, the prosecution found evidence that Castro drugged or sedated the minors in order to engage in sexual activities with them. In terms of child endangerment, Castro not only compromised and infringed upon the safety of the minors (at the time) DeJesus and Berry, but also the safety of the six-year-old who was born in captivity and was bereft of proper medical services. The prosecution also charged Castro with aggravated murder for starving and punching the women in their stomachs on two separate occasions in order to force them to miscarry.
Massachusetts Law Applied to the Charges
According to Westlaw’s Massachusetts General Laws Annotated, a person who “forcibly or secretly confines or imprisons another person…or kidnaps another person” may be imprisoned for at least ten years in prison. If the criminal is also armed, his punishment becomes at least ten years. “Whoever, without lawful authority, forcibly or secretly confines a child under the age of 16” is liable for a maximum of 15 years in state prison, and if he is armed, his punishment jumps to at least 20 years. Finally, Massachusetts state law decrees that a person who is armed with a dangerous weapon and “inflicts serious bodily injury thereby upon another person or who sexually assaults such person” will get at least 25 years in state prison. According to Massachusetts law, Castro’s would accumulate at least a life sentence after kidnapping three persons, two of them minors, and sexually harassing, threatening, and inflicting them with bodily injury over the course of ten years.
Here, Ariel Castro’s defense advised him to agree to a plea deal in order to avoid the death penalty. Accordingly, Castro plead “guilty” to all the charges and received a life sentence without parole, plus 1,000 years, as well as the label of “sex offender” in his criminal record. Castro revealed to Judge Russo that he had also been a “victim as a child,” and a pornography addiction that impaired his comprehension of the English language. Castro will be sentenced on August 1.