Ohio: Ariel Faces Death Penalty Over Miscarriages

Sky News US Team
Ohio: Ariel Faces Death Penalty Over Miscarriages

An Ohio prosecutor has said he may seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty for the man accused of imprisoning three women at his home for a decade.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Thomas McGinty said the possible charges would be related to pregnancies that Ariel Castro allegedly terminated by force.

Mr McGinty said Ohio law calls for the death penalty for the "most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping".

He said Castro would be charged for every single act of sexual violence, assault and other crimes, suggesting the charges could number in the hundreds, if not thousands.

The three women made a dramatic escape from Castro's home in Cleveland on Monday. Police also found a six-year-old girl believed to have been born to one of the women while in captivity.

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 repeatedly raped and were only allowed outside a handful of times in disguise in  Ariel's backyard.

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 evidently bound by ropes and chains at times in the house and were kept in different rooms.

The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland reported 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 Miss Knight resuscitated the child by breathing into her, the report said.

The 32-year-old also told police that she suffered at least five miscarriages after Castro starved her and hit her in the abdomen.

Meanwhile, Cleveland media reported details of a note reportedly found by police in Castro's home in which he describes himself as a "sexual predator".

"They are here against their will because they made a mistake of getting in a car with a total stranger," said the note, which was apparently written in 2004 when he had already captured the first two women.

"I don't know why I kept looking for another. I already had 2 in my possession."

According to Scott Taylor, an investigative reporter for Cleveland's 19 Action News, Castro also "writes about wanting to kill himself and 'give all the money I saved to my victims.'"

Castro, 52, has been charged with four counts of kidnapping - covering the captives and the child - and three counts of rape, against all three women.

He is being held on \$8m bail and is believed to be in isolation on suicide watch in jail.

His brothers, Pedro and Onil Castro, were ordered to be freed after appearing at the same Cleveland Municipal Court hearing on misdemeanour charges.

Police said they found no evidence suggesting the two brothers were linked to or had any knowledge of the alleged crimes.

Castro's mother has apologised for his actions and said she is "in a lot of pain".

Lillian Rodriguez spoke briefly to reporters as she drove away from the home she shares with Pedro.

"I have a sick son who has committed something grave," she said. "I am suffering very much. I ask forgiveness from those mothers. May those young ladies forgive me."

Meanwhile Castro's daughter Arlene Castro, 22, appeared on ABC and apologised to victim Gina DeJesus, who she called her best friend in high school.

"I am absolutely so, so sorry," she said, choking back tears. "I really want to see Gina ... I’m so sorry for everything."