Prosecutor to seek murder charges against accused Ohio kidnapper
CLEVELAND - Ohio authorities said on Thursday they will seek aggravated murder charges, which could carry the death penalty, against a former Cleveland school bus driver accused of kidnapping and raping three women during a decade of captivity in his house.
The aggravated murder charges would stem from the forced miscarriages that police say were suffered by one of the women at the hands of Ariel Castro, 52, who is accused of holding them captive at his house in a low-income neighborhood of Cleveland.
County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said at a news conference that his office intends to pursue charges of kidnapping and sexual assault as well as aggravated murder, which could carry the death penalty.
"The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping," he said.
The city of Cleveland has already filed kidnapping and rape charges against Castro, who appeared briefly in a municipal court on Thursday.
A judge set bond for Castro at $8 million - $2 million each for the three young women and a child born in captivity.
They fled his house on Monday, and the appearance in Cleveland Municipal Court marked the first time Castro had been seen in public since his arrest a few hours after their escape.
Castro's home "was a prison to these three women and the child," Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy told the Municipal Court judge.
"Today the situation is turned on him," Murphy said. "Mr. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner."
The $8 million bond set by Judge Lauren Moore was higher than the $5 million requested by the prosecutor.
The judge also ordered Castro to have no contact with the victims or their families.
Their imprisonment came to an end on Monday after neighbors, drawn by cries for help, broke through a door to rescue Amanda Berry, whose disappearance in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday was widely publicized in the local media.
Rescued with Berry, now 27, was her 6-year-old daughter, conceived and born during her confinement, and fellow captives Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who went missing in 2002.
During captivity, Knight suffered at least five miscarriages that she told police were intentionally caused by her captor starving her and beating her in the abdomen, according to an initial police report.
Officials say all three women were at times bound in chains or rope and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults.
Berry and DeJesus went home with family members on Wednesday, while Knight remained hospitalized in good condition.
Knight suffered substantial hearing loss and may undergo some facial reconstruction due to the years of abuse, her grandmother Deborah Knight said.
Neither Knight's grandmother nor her mother have seen her since she was rescued this week. "She does not want to be seen by family," the grandmother said.