Prosecutors may seek the death penalty in the case against a Cleveland man accused of kidnapping and holding captive three young women for years, on the basis of police reports that he allegedly forced miscarriages during the women’s detainment, officials announced Thursday.
Ariel Castro was arraigned Thursday morning in Cleveland Municipal Court, charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. He did not enter a plea at the hearing. He is being held on $8 million bail, which is higher than the $5 million requested by the prosecution.
Details about the conditions and abuse of the women – Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus – have emerged as the prosecution presented its case against Mr. Castro. The women were kidnapped between 2002 and 2004 when they were 21, 16, and 14 years old. Castro allegedly lured the victims into his car, promising to give them a ride home, but took them to his house, where he kept them confined for about 10 years.
While in captivity, Ms. Berry gave birth to a daughter who is now 6 years old, said police reports. Ms. Knight said she had at least five miscarriages caused by Castro. The three women were repeatedly beaten and raped, police reported.
“The horrific brutality and torture the victims endured for more than a decade is beyond comprehension,” Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said during a news conference.
Ohio state law calls for the death penalty for the "most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping," said Mr. McGinty, who will "engage in a formal process to evaluate" seeking the death penalty against the suspect.
"I will seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, every day of kidnapping ... and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies ... during this decade-long ordeal," he said.
Both McGinty and Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson have asked residents and the media to respect the privacy of the three women and the young girl.
“The victims and their families have been overwhelmed by this response.... We need to give them room, space and time to heal," Mr. Jackson said during a press conference.
Jackson ordered Public Safety Director Marty Flask to instruct officials to not release information or details outside of the department out of respect for the victims.
“This is not for the sake of concealing any information,” he said. “It is to demonstrate compassion for the victims and their families and to ensure the credibility of the investigative process and allow us to arrive at a just conclusion to this difficult situation.”
Castro is currently being held in his own cell at the Cuyahoga County Jail under suicide prevention watch, officials told WEWS-TV. It is likely the suspect will face additional charges after a grand jury hearing within the next few weeks.
– Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.