Former Cleveland school principal: Nothing stood out about kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro

CLEVELAND - A former Cleveland school principal who worked with Ariel Castro said "nothing in particular stood out" about the accused rapist and kidnapper.

"I don't recall anything that… would have been alarming or anything I would have thought of as an issue at this time," said Phil Pempin. 

Pempin was the principal of Riverside Elementary School in Cleveland between 1998 and 2006. He is currently the Vermilion Local Schools superintendent.

Pempin said Castro was a bus driver for Riverside for a period of time and appeared to be an average guy.

"I dealt with him on a daily basis as a principal on a professional level and it was strictly business," Pempin said.

Records obtained by 10News Scripps sister station WEWS-TV show Castro was repeatedly disciplined while working as a bus driver with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Castro was fired in November after leaving his bus unattended for four hours.

Pempin said he does not recall any disciplinary incidents involving Castro at his school. He said Castro's actions should not affect how parents view school bus drivers.

"I'm not defending his actions in any way, shape or form, but if you're asking me the question about drivers, in general, and safety, I think bus drivers do a wonderful job," he said.

Pempin said he immediately recognized Castro when he saw his picture on the news last week. 

"You can't help but feel bad that somehow, if you would have known anything, if you had any inkling that something like that was occurring, that you would want to help in any way, but there was just no way of knowing anything," he said.

Castro is accused of holding three women captive in his home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland for a decade.


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