5 Facts You May Not Know About Cleveland 'House Of Horrors' Kidnapper Ariel Castro
How a fired school bus driver abducted three young women and held them in his home for a decade — until one victim escaped with the daughter she’d had in captivity.
Between 2002 and 2004, Ariel Castro abducted and imprisoned Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight from the very same block. The professional school-bus driver bound the women in chains and used them as sex slaves inside his Cleveland home until May 6, 2013 — when Berry slipped outside the “house of horrors” with her six-year-old daughter, whom Castro had fathered.
Two days later, the 52-year-old Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder. He received a sentence of life plus 1,000 years in prison without the possibility of parole. One month into his stint, Castro used bed sheets to hang himself in his prison cell.
Here are five little-known facts about a criminal whose own family members have described as a “monster.
1. Dating Back To The 1980s, Ariel Castro Had A History Of Domestic Abuse & Threatening Neighbors
According to police records, authorities showed up six times to deal with accusations that Ariel Castro had beaten his wife or harassed his neighbors. Still, he never did any jail time.
Grimilda Figueroa, Castro’s wife, reported being physically abused by her husband in 1989, 1993, and 2005. In the 1993 incident, Castro allegedly assaulted Figueroa while she was in pain and recovering from brain surgery. Records say Castro "threw her to the ground, hitting her about the head and face and kicking her body."
A 2005 filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court Figueroa states that Figueroa suffered two broken noses, broken ribs, a knocked-out tooth, a blood clot on the brain, and two dislocated shoulders.
Figueroa’s attorney further stated that, even though his client had full custody of the couple’s children, Castro “frequently abducts daughters and keeps them from mother.’’
Grimilda Figueroa ultimately died from complications related to cancer in 2012.
In other incidents, Castro was accused of hitting a man with a shovel, threatening to run another man over who was dropping his daughter off at the bus stop, and stealing a chain link fence that left a hole in the ground that led to a four-year-old girl getting hurt. In that last case, an arbitration court ordered Castro to pay $241 in damages.
A 2008 dash cam video of police stopping and questioning Castro went public following the arrest, as well. [ABC News]
2. In 2004, Castro Left A Child On The School Bus He Was Driving — & Police Visited The Home Where The Women Were Locked Up
For years, Ariel Castro had been employed by the City of Cleveland as a school bus driver when, in 2004, he left a child on a vehicle he’d been driving to take a lunch break — “either accidentally or intentionally.”
Investigators visited Castro at his home and determined that he had not acted with criminal intent.
After the abductions came to light, Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath said he believes Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were likely tied up somewhere in the residence at the time.
Cleveland finally fired Castro in 2012 after he made an illegal U-turn with a child on board, in addition to allegations he used the bus to go grocery shopping, and leaving a child on a bus unattended. [Cleveland.com]
3. Castro’s Neighbors Told Police About Strange Incidents, Including “Naked Women Crawling Around,” But No Legal Action Was Taken
Multiple neighbors reportedly alerted police to alarming events happening in and around Ariel Castro’s home, but they say police didn’t take their claims seriously.
Israel Lugo, who lives two houses over, called the cops to say he heard pounding coming from inside the doors of Castro’s home, but when officers showed up, they just took a quick look around the property and left.
Nina Samoylicz, a neighbor from three doors down, said she telephoned police in 2011 to report seeing a naked woman in Castro’s backyard. She told CNN, “We thought it was funny at first, and then we thought that was weird, so we called the cops. They thought we were playing, joking, they didn't believe us.”
Not long after that, several women reportedly dialed 911 to say they saw three naked women wearing dog collars as they crawled around the backyward, "being controlled by three men.”
When Ariel Castro was arrested in 2013, police also picked up his brothers, Pedro and Onil, but the brothers were released after authorities found no reason to convict them of any related crimes. [Daily Mail]
4. While Studying Journalism In 2004, Ariel Castro’s Son Wrote A Newspaper Article About Abduction Victim Gina DeJesus
In a bizarre twist of fate, Ariel Anthony Castro — the son of Ariel who goes by the name “Anthony” — wrote a newspaper article in 2004 article about the disappearance of 14-year-old Gina DeJesus. The story ran in The Plain Press, a weekly community paper, just seven weeks after Gina vanished.
Anthony was studying journalism at Bowling Green University at the time. He took on the assignment as part of a class project.
For the piece, Anthony interviewed Nancy Ruiz, Gina’s mother, who said, “People are watching out for each other’s kids. It’s a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbors. Bless their hearts, they’ve been great.”
Ruiz also pointed out the number of sex offenders in the area where Gina vanished, stating, “There is no enforcing the laws because they still live right next to the schools and bus stops.”
Plain Press editor Chuck Hoven confirmed that Anthony had written the story, saying, “He was a young kid from Cleveland, he wanted something for his portfolio. He did a nice job.”
After his father was arrested, Anthony told a reporter, “That I wrote about this nearly 10 years ago — to find out that it is now so close to my family — it's unspeakable.”
On a more pleasant note, Anthony did go on to a career in journalism. He took up freelancing after editing a daily newspaper for seven years, and was honored by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. [Fox News]
5. Emily Castro, Ariel’s Daughter, Is In Prison For Attempting To Murder Her 11-Month-Old Baby
According to reports, Emily Castro, the daughter of kidnapper Ariel Castro, is serving 25 years in prison for trying to kill her 11-month-old daughter, Janyla, in 2007.
Emily, who was 19 at the time, reportedly slashed the baby’s throat four times and then cut her own neck and wrists in an apparent murder-suicide attempt. Indiana authorities who were responding to reports of an injured child found Emily and Janyla covered with blood and mud.
En route to a hospital, Emily reportedly said she used the same knife to cut both the baby and herself, and afterward she tried to drown herself in a creek. Both Emily and Janyla fully recovered.
During Emily’s trial, prosecutors alleged that the attack was “payback” against Janyla’s father, who had moved out of the couple’s residence for the third time a day before. Defense attorneys said Emily suffered from manic depression and had become paranoid that family members were trying to kill her baby.
A jury found Emily guilty of attempted murder and she was sentenced to 25 years. [New York Daily News]