Ariel Castro: The Monster of Cleveland

An Illustration Resembling A Crime-Themed Graphic Novel Cover With A Mans Portrait Covered In Blood-Like Splatters.
  • Name
    • Ariel Castro
  • Alias
    • The Monster of Cleveland
    • A.C.
  • Gender
    • Male
  • Birth Date
    • July 10, 1960
  • Place of Birth
    • Duey, Puerto Rico
  • Date of Death
    • September 3, 2013 (aged 53)
  • Place of Death
    • Pickaway Correctional Institution, Pickaway County, Ohio, U.S.
  • Occupation
    • Musician
    • School bus driver
    • Factory worker
  • Pathology
    • Ephebophile
    • Hebephile
    • Poisoner
    • Unclassified Killer
    • Serial Rapist
    • Abductor
  • Modus Operandi
    • Abduction
    • Various battering
  • No. of Victims
    • 1 killed
    • 3 abducted
    • 2 attempted
    • 1 threatened
  • Span of crimes
    • 1981 – May 6, 2013
  • Criminal Charges
    • 512 counts of kidnapping
    • 446 counts of rape
    • 7 counts of gross sexual imposition
    • 6 counts of felonious assault
    • 3 counts of child endangerment
    • 2 counts of aggravated murder
    • 1 count of possession of criminal tools
  • Sentence
    • 1,000 years in prison
  • Apprehended
    • May 6, 2013
  • Status
    • Deceased
    • (suicide by hanging)

The Birth of Ariel Castro: The Monster of Cleveland

Castro was born in Duey, Puerto Rico, on July 10, 1960. He was the third child of Pedro Castro, the largest landowner in the village, and his wife Lilian Rodriguez. In 1962, Rodriguez discovered her husband’s secret second marriage, which produced four more children, and he abandoned Rodriguez for his other family. Shortly after, Rodriguez relocated to Pennsylvania for work, leaving her four children in Puerto Rico under the care of their maternal grandmother, Hercilia Carabello. It was during this time that Castro, then five years old, was subjected to repeated anal penetration by finger from a nine-year-old boy known as “Pucho.”

Castro never reported the abuse and developed an obsession with sex and a compulsion to masturbate early on. Rodriguez returned to her children in 1966; according to Castro, she was abusive and would insult and hit him daily with various objects. Castro’s family immigrated to Cleveland in 1970 after a visit from his uncle Cesi, who had opened a record shop there in 1969. Cesi gifted Castro a guitar, and he pursued a career as a professional bass player while also holding down different second jobs.

Castro began dating his 17-year-old neighbor Nilda Figueroa in 1980. Her family insisted that he care for her after she became pregnant. Castro’s demeanor shifted drastically after the birth of their first child in 1981, becoming domineering and abusive. He confined her to their home and controlled her shopping and viewing choices, subjecting her to beatings if she disobeyed. The violence worsened, with Castro frequently fracturing Figueroa’s bones and permitting her hospitalization only if she promised not to involve the authorities.

In 1989, Castro assaulted Figueroa in the presence of his brother but was later released. In 1992, they moved to 2207 Seymour Drive with their four children. Castro locked every door, installed a trapdoor, and soundproofed the basement. He prohibited anyone from entering it. Additionally, he tinted the windows and restricted Figueroa’s phone usage.

A Portrait Photograph Of A Middle-Aged Man With A Mustache And Goatee, Wearing A Black Collar Shirt.

Figueroa became pregnant for the fifth time, and Castro, not desiring more children, attempted to induce a miscarriage but failed. In October 1993, Castro threw Figueroa down some stairs, resulting in a skull fracture. Weeks later, she started experiencing seizures and was diagnosed with a malignant tumor caused by a hardened blood clot in her brain. On December 26, Castro returned home inebriated and assaulted Figueroa once more.

Castro’s son, Ariel Jr., aged twelve, dashed out to seek assistance. Seizing the opportunity, Figueroa locked Castro outside and contacted the authorities. They discovered him banging on the entrance and detained him once he fled from the scene. In February 1994, Figueroa was summoned to testify under oath, but Castro, who had been freed on a $25,000 bond, intercepted her as she tried to enter the facility and issued threats against her and the children. Overwhelmed by fear, Figueroa recanted her earlier statement, claiming that the assault never occurred, resulting in the charges being dropped.

Figueroa and the children moved in with her mother, and Castro cut off contact. He fortified the house with stolen materials and installed alarms and mirrors. Figueroa began dating a security guard named Fernando Colon while undergoing brain surgery in 1995.

Castro learned of their relationship the year after, when one of his daughters called him from Colon’s home, and he became furious. He called Colon, claiming that Figueroa was his wife and that he had “stolen” her from him, but Colon reminded Castro that he had never married Figueroa. Later, Castro saw Colon taking his children to school and attempted to run him over with his car, but Colon dodged him. Colon filed charges against Castro, but they were dropped due to a lack of evidence. In 1997, Figueroa was given full custody of the children and Castro was deprived of visitation rights.

Abductions, Capture, and Suicide

Abductions

“You [Amanda] better shut up. I’ve gone this far, I don’t know what I’m capable of now.”

After his family left, Castro became interested in BDSM and developed a fantasy of holding a teenage girl in his home as a sex slave. On August 22, 2002, Castro was at a dollar store when he overheard Michelle Knight asking how to get to a Social Services office. Knight’s two-year-old son had earlier been taken by Social Services and she had an appointment for an evaluation to determine if she was fit to raise him. However, she was not familiar with the area and was lost.

Castro believed Knight was fifteen and volunteered to give her a ride. Knight trusted Castro due to his daughter Emily being her friend. Castro stopped at his residence to feed some puppies, which was conveniently en route to Social Services.

Later, he lured Knight into the house under the pretense of a free puppy and held her captive. Despite her disappearance, the police failed to adequately investigate, assuming she had left willingly. Castro cruelly taunted Knight, highlighting the lack of concern for her well-being.

A Haunting Image Of A Dark Figure In A Vacant Room, Evoking A Sense Of Unease And Mystery.

Castro’s next abduction took place on April 21, 2003. The victim was Amanda Berry, a workmate of his son Anthony at Burger King, and whom Castro had wanted to abduct for a while because she was blonde. Berry’s seventeenth birthday was the following day. Castro offered her a lift home after she ended her shift; she accepted because she knew Anthony and also Castro’s daughter Angie, who had gone to school with her.

Castro told Berry that Angie was at his home, and he proposed to stop there so she could greet her. Once in the house, Castro used a guard dog to distract Berry, took her cellphone, and imprisoned her. Unlike Knight’s disappearance, Berry’s caused a public commotion, and her family appeared multiple times on TV. A week later, Castro used Berry’s cellphone to call her mother and said that he had her, that she was fine, and that she would go home in a couple of days. The call proved that Berry had been abducted, and the FBI was called in to investigate.

They used triangulation to locate the call to the abduction site and left a vehicle there. Nevertheless, the phone’s precise location couldn’t be ascertained as Castro never made another call. In the meantime, Berry was informed by Castro that he had contacted her family, instructing them not to pursue her since they were now in a relationship.

A Neglected Two-Story House With A Chain-Link Fence And Overgrown Yard.

On April 2, 2004, Arlene Castro and Gina DeJesus parted ways after leaving school. Arlene visited Colon’s workplace for a ride home, while Gina headed to her own house. Castro, aware of their movements, lurked in the shadows.

Afterward, he approached DeJesus and asked for her assistance in locating Arlene. She entered the vehicle, and they headed towards 2207 Avenue, contrary to her directions. DeJesus inquired about the change in route, and Castro provided conflicting explanations, including selecting a loudspeaker and his daughter Emily’s desire to accompany them to the mall.

DeJesus was later imprisoned in the same room as Knight. Knight quickly realized that Castro had abducted DeJesus and confronted him. Castro denied it and falsely claimed that DeJesus was his daughter when he brought her into the cell days later.

No AMBER Alert was issued for DeJesus, but the fact that she vanished within sight of Berry’s workplace and less than a year after her, made the media and their families connect the cases immediately. Castro also became paranoid that a security camera at the school had recorded him (it was actually out of order that day) and he wrote a bizarre, four-page-long confession, and possible suicide note. In this, he ranted about his childhood, his relationship with Figueroa, and the reasons he was holding his victims captive.

Castro repeatedly misrepresented his relationship with Figueroa, asserting that they were legally wedded, she was abusive towards him and he retaliated in self-defense. His statements about the women held captive in his house were also inconsistent; he claimed they stayed willingly and received payment for sexual services, but also stated they were there involuntarily and blamed them for getting into a stranger’s car. Castro stored the note in a kitchen drawer where it remained hidden until police found it nine years later. During this period, he participated in vigils for DeJesus, expressed sympathy to her family and distributed “Missing” posters. When questioned about the note, Castro maintained that he kept it as proof of his innocence.

Period of Captivity

A Man In A Brown Jacket Stands Outdoors, His Features Discernible Despite The Low-Quality Image.

During the period surrounding DeJesus’s kidnapping, Castro developed an intense fixation on reconnecting with his adolescent daughters. He would unexpectedly appear at their house or school, collect them and present them with money and items without any clear motive. After failing to persuade Figueroa to abandon Colon and come back to him, Castro manipulated his two younger daughters into accusing Colon of abducting them and conducting a virginity test by touching their private parts.

Despite the lack of evidence, Figueroa and Ariel Castro Jr.’s testimony, and procedural irregularities, Colon was convicted of sexual abuse, given probation, and required to register as a sex offender. Consequently, Colon lost his job and Figueroa terminated their relationship. In 2015, Colon’s attempt to overturn the verdict was rejected.

After his unsuccessful attempt to rekindle his “marital” relationship with Figueroa, Castro informed his captives that Berry was now considered his wife. He shifted the location of sexual assaults on Knight and DeJesus from inside the house to the backyard. Despite some neighbors witnessing women in chains outside the property, no one alerted law enforcement. In 2007, Berry found herself expecting a child. Unlike Knight who had been subjected to forced miscarriages five times due to physical abuse, poisoning and malnutrition (one instance occurred while Berry was also pregnant), Castro ceased sexually assaulting Berry and enhanced her diet for the successful progression of her pregnancy. Initially, he planned on abandoning the newborn at a church’s doorstep after birth but as delivery approached closer, he started showing enthusiasm about becoming a father once more.

On Christmas Day, when Berry began to experience labor pains, he escorted her and Knight to a blow-up pool for children situated in the basement. He instructed Knight to assist Berry with the delivery process. Upon realizing that the newborn girl was not breathing, Castro threatened to kill Knight on the spot if she failed to revive the baby. However, Knight managed to resuscitate her using CPR techniques. Despite Castro’s insistence on giving her a Spanish name, Berry named her daughter Jocelyn as an act of defiance. She took up sole responsibility for raising and educating Jocelyn within their confined space. The only assistance provided by Castro was unchaining Berry and supplying some old toys for Jocelyn’s use. The three captives repurposed old clothes into outfits for the baby.

Discovery, Arrest, and Suicide

Three Individuals Share A Heartwarming Moment In A Hospital Room, Exuding Camaraderie And Support.

As Jocelyn grew into a toddler and became more aware of her surroundings, Castro forced Knight and DeJesus to take the names “JuJu” (after Jujubes candy) and “Chelsea”, respectively, but he allowed Berry to use her real name. He took all chains out when Jocelyn pulled Knight’s chain one day and asked, “JuJu lock?” Afterward, he also allowed them limited movement through the house, but always under his supervision, and kept a gun visible in his waist at all times. When Jocelyn was four years old, he started taking her out of the house, and would introduce her to relatives as either his granddaughter or his new girlfriend’s daughter.

Castro would always explain that her mother was occupied whenever people inquired about why they never saw them together. He unlocked some doors when Jocelyn voiced her concerns about all the doors being locked when he wasn’t around. On May 6, 2013, Castro inadvertently left the main front door unlocked, although the exterior storm door remained secured. Berry seized this opportunity and with her daughter, pounded on the storm door until two neighbors, Ángel Cordero and Charles Ramsey were alerted. Both Cordero and Ramsey forcefully kicked at the storm door until a hole was created for Berry to crawl through. She then contacted law enforcement from another neighbor’s residence who subsequently rescued Knight and DeJesus; they had stayed inside during Berry’s escape as they thought it was another trick by Castro.

Knight, Berry, DeJesus, and Jocelyn were all hospitalized at MetroHealth Medical Center. On the same day, Castro was pulled over by Police and arrested in a parking lot. He was accompanied by his brother Onil, who was also arrested for unrelated offenses along with a third brother, Pedro. This caused journalists to misreport that all three brothers were suspects in the abductions. While in custody, Castro insisted that his brothers were not involved in his crimes. He confessed in much the same way as he had written the note years before, recognizing the facts but deflecting responsibility from himself, portraying himself as a victim, and blaming law enforcement’s poor work and the victims for their own situation.

Two days after his arrest, Castro was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, but by June 7, this was upgraded to a total of 329 counts of various crimes. Castro’s lawyer eventually encouraged him to take a guilty plea in order to avoid the death penalty, which is admissible in Ohio for an intentional induction of miscarriage. Castro was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years. The plea deal also required the demolition of Castro’s house. A month into his sentence, Castro used his bed-sheets to hang himself in his cell.

Modus Operandi

A Cluttered And Disorganized Basement Depicts A Messy Storage Space With Various Items Strewn About.
A cluttered and disorganized basement showcases a messy storage space with various items strewn about.

Castro’s abductions followed a strict script. All of his victims were women between 14 and 21 years old, of short stature and with large breasts, who knew at least one of his children but not him personally. He offered them a lift in one of his vehicles, which had been altered so they could only be opened from the driver’s seat from the inside, and led them in his home under some pretext. He would then masturbate and rape them once before restraining them with duct tape and leaving them in the soundproof basement, chained, gagged, and with a bike helmet covering their head. After some time, he decided that they could be “trusted” and moved them upstairs.

Then, they were kept chained by the waist at all times, in padlocked bedrooms with a hole in each door to spy them. They were given old clothes from Castro, fed fast food and leftovers only, were forced to use a plastic bin as a toilet, and were raped four or five times a day. After each rape, he would throw small bills at them to maintain his belief that the sex was consensual, which the victims could exchange for goods through a limited barter system.

Castro often pretended to leave and waited outside to discourage them from escaping. Whenever he was not in the house, or whenever he had visitors, he would play loud music on the radio to make sure nobody heard them. If the captives disobeyed him in any way, they were savagely beaten, starved, and threatened to be killed with a .44 Magnum. He allowed them to interact with one another at times, but he punished them if he thought they were too friendly with each other.

Castro also tortured Berry and DeJesus psychologically by making them watch TV reports on their disappearance and hanging their “missing” posters on their cells, while Knight was taunted about how she wasn’t being searched. At one point, he made Knight dig a grave in the backyard and tried to strangle her, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

The bottom line is, I am a sexual predator who needs help but I don’t bother to get it.”

Profile

A Monochromatic Pencil Sketch Of A Man With A Neutral Expression, Engaging Eyes, And Modern Hairstyle.

In 2005, the FBI released a sketch and description of a suspect in DeJesus’ disappearance, identifying him as male, Latino, aged 25 to 35 years old, 5’10”, and 165 to 185 pounds, with green eyes, a goatee, and possibly a pencil-thin beard. Castro was actually 45 at the time, 5’7″, and had brown eyes.

Experts rejected Castro’s claim that he committed the crimes because he was sick. Jim Van Allen, the former director of the Ontario criminal profiling unit, described Castro as a sexual sadist and likened him to Paul Bernardo. To Mary Ellen O’Toole, Castro was a typical psychopath. He was very arrogant, had no empathy or remorse, and was incapable of taking responsibility for his own actions, yet he appeared to live a normal life from the outside. An unnamed prison psychiatrist diagnosed him with “Narcissistic Personality Disorder with Antisocial Features”, but also noted that Castro had a “somewhat fragile self-esteem”.

Known Victims

Identified Casualties

Nilda Figueroa.

A Mysterious Image Leaves Us With More Questions Than Answers.
  • Unspecified dates:
    • 1981-1994: Grimilda “Nilda” Figueroa (his common-law wife; imprisoned and battered repeatedly; died of a brain tumor derived from the abuse on April 25, 2012)
    • 1992: Arlene Castro (his then-unborn daughter; attempted to miscarry through violence)
    • 1994: Unnamed neighbor (threatened with a shovel and stole some of his materials)
  • May 16, 1996: Fernando Colon, 31 (Figueroa’s second common-law husband; attempted to run him over with his car)
  • 2002-2004: Three women abducted and raped repeatedly, all were rescued on May 6, 2013:
    • August 22, 2002: Michelle Knight, 21 (attempted to strangle; left partially blind and deaf from abuse)
    • April 21, 2003: Amanda Marie Berry, 16
    • April 2, 2004: Georgina “Gina” Lynn DeJesus, 14 (was not impregnated)
  • Note: In addition, Castro told Knight that there had been “others” before she was imprisoned, and he showed her a female name written on a wall under the word “RIP”; the name was never released by law enforcement. However, Police found no evidence that a fourth abduction victim had been held in the house, let alone murdered. While Castro was still unidentified, the FBI had also considered likely that Berry and DeJesus’s case was related to Ashley Summers, a 14-year-old girl who disappeared in the same area in 2007, but Castro and all three abductees denied any relation to her case.

Notes

  • The BAU was consulted during the investigation of DeJesus’s disappearance

Sources

References

  1. ↑Castro was present while his daughters gave their statement to police, despite having no custody over them, and picked them by force when they tried to run away days before the trial. They slept in Castro’s home the night before, while the three prisoners were chained inside Castro’s van in the garage.
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