A man suspected of raping and kidnapping three women who vanished for about a decade before a dramatic escape from his Ohio home made his first court appearance on Thursday, and a prosecutor said he may seek the death penalty for forced miscarriages.
The horrors the women suffered began to come to light, including the birth of a surviving child in an inflatable pool.
Ariel Castro, 52, was silent, looking at the ground, biting his collar and signing documents with his handcuffed hands.
He was ordered held on US$8 million bond.
Investigators say the women — lured into Castro’s car at the ages of 14, 16 and 20 — endured lonely, dark lives inside a dingy home where they were raped and allowed outside only a handful of times in disguises while walking to a garage steps away.
Authorities say the women had multiple forced miscarriages. Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said state law calls for the death penalty for the “most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping.”
He said aggravated murder charges could be filed related to pregnancies terminated by force.
Assistant county prosecutor Brian Murphy said Castro used the women “in whatever self-gratifying, self-serving way he saw fit.” Police say the women were apparently bound by ropes and chains at times in the house and were kept in different rooms.
Castro has been charged with four counts of kidnapping — covering the captives and the child — and three counts of rape, against all three women.
The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported on Thursday that one of the women, Amanda Berry, gave birth to her daughter in an inflatable swimming pool.
A police report obtained by the newspaper said Castro forced another of his alleged captives, Michelle Knight, to deliver the baby and threatened to kill her if the infant did not survive. The baby stopped breathing, and Knight resuscitated the child by breathing into her, the report said.
The women and Castro have given lengthy statements to police, deputy police chief Ed Tomba said.
None of the women gave any indication that Castro’s two brothers, who had been in custody since Monday, were involved, Tomba said.
Prosecutors brought no charges against the brothers, citing a lack of evidence.
The brothers appeared in court on unrelated charges and were released.
“Ariel kept everyone at a distance,” Tomba said.
One thing that remains a mystery is how the women were kept in the house so long, he said.
The women, now in their 20s and 30s, vanished separately between 2002 and 2004.
They never saw a chance to escape over the last 10 years until this week, when Berry broke through a door and ran to freedom, alerting police who rescued the other two women while Castro was away from the house.