New court documents describe the terrible conditions three Cleveland woman endured while being held captive by Ariel Castro.
Last week, Castro pleaded guilty to 937, including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder, in the disappearances of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. He will be sentenced Thursday at 9:00 a.m. and faces life in prison without the possibility of parole plus a thousand years.
According to the sentencing memorandum, in 2002, then-21-year-old Knight was lured from West 106th Street and Lorain Avenue by Castro, who offered to give her a ride. Castro got Knight inside his house by promising her a puppy for her son.
Castro took Berry on April 21, 2003 at the age of 16. He offered her a ride, and then said he was taking her to see his daughter. The documents said Castro repeated his kidnapping pattern by giving then-14-year-old DeJesus a ride after school in 2004. He even drove by his own daughter so he could ask DeJesus if she had seen her.
Once inside his house, the three women suffered years of physical, mental and sexual abuse.
“His repeated mode of operation was to use physical restraints on the victims. He used chains to deprive them of their livery and freedom,” the memorandum said. He owned a gun, according to prosecutors, and threatened to kill the victims if they didn’t obey.
The court documents said Castro told his captives there were other victims, “some of them made it home, but that others had not.” He assaulted the women if they tried to escape.
Castro would not allow the women to use the only bathroom in the house, which is on the first floor. The documents said the women used plastic toilets in their bedrooms that were not emptied. He also used the heat of the attic or the cold of the basement as punishment.
"The victims had to watch the rest of the world turn as they were held in captivity. Holidays, world events, and even the passing of Ms. Berry's mother were observed by them, removed from the outside world," the memo said.
In 2005, Castro kept Berry, DeJesus and Knight in his garage for three days while he had a visitor.
The documents also addressed Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, saying her time in captivity started the day she was born on Dec. 25, 2006.
“The defendant deprived Amanda Berry of any medical assistance during the pregnancy and birth. When the baby was born, she was not breathing. Michelle Knight breathed into the baby’s mouth in an effort to save her. The defendant threatened to kill Michelle Knight if she failed to save her life. Miraculously, the baby survived.”
However, Knight’s pregnancy never made it that far. According to the sentencing memorandum, Castro jumped of Knight’s stomach, punched her and starved her for days to end the pregnancy. Castro said he planned with Knight to terminate the baby together by holding her to a diet of only tea.
Castro admitted that he kept Knight locked up using chairs and plastic zip-ties. He said the exterior doors were secured with padlocks and he would put cloth inside her mouth to stop her from screaming.
All three women said they were only given one meal a deal and could shower one or two times a week.
Throughout their time in captivity, Berry, DeJesus and Knight kept diaries to keep track of the days and months. Those diaries describe dreams of being reunited with their families, the anticipating of more abuse and being locked in a dark room.
“In the end, he claims that he ‘gave them all a chance to escape’ by leaving the door to Ms. Berry and her child’s room unlocked. The defendant admitted and realized this was a complicated double-life that he was leading. He also admitted that he did not have an exit strategy—the consequences of which could have been even more horrific.”
The sentencing documents include opinions from trauma expert and psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, who said Castro terrified, degraded and deprived his victims.
“The Stockholm syndrome does apply, in part, as an explanation of the young women’s compliance with Castro,” Ochberg wrote about the condition named when a bank teller bonded with her captor. “…little by little, you allowed ‘the gifts of life.’ You are like an infant totally dependent on your mother for survival. As you receive these gifts of life, without consciously realizing what is occurring, you feel some warmth—even love—toward that giver of life.”