May 6

This Day in History

Crime

May 6, 2013:

Ohio kidnap victims rescued after years in captivity

On this day in 2013, three women are rescued from a Cleveland, Ohio, house where they had been imprisoned for many years by their abductor, 52-year-old Ariel Castro, an unemployed bus driver. The women—Michelle Knight, Amada Berry and Gina DeJesus—went missing separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 21, 16 and 14 years old, respectively. Also rescued from the house was a 6-year-old girl born to Berry while she was being held captive and fathered by Castro.

Castro abducted each of the women, who had been acquaintances of his children, by giving them a ride in his car then luring them into his home in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood, where they were tortured and kept locked up. During their years in captivity, the women were beaten, sexually assaulted, restrained by chains and starved. Knight told authorities she became pregnant by Castro five times and each time he punched and kicked her to force a miscarriage. Additionally, Castro ordered Knight to help deliver Berry’s baby, threatening to kill Knight if anything went wrong. In all the years they were held hostage, the women were allowed into the backyard of Castro’s dilapidated, two-story house just a few times, and only when disguised in wigs and sunglasses. 

Meanwhile, Castro led a double life: driving a school bus, chatting with neighbors, playing bass in local bands and posting to his Facebook page. That came to an end on the evening of May 6, 2013, when Berry stood at the front door of Castro’s house after he’d gone out, and screamed for help. In response, neighbors kicked in the door and Berry escaped with her daughter then called 911. When police arrived at the house, they rescued Knight and DeJesus. Castro was arrested in the area that same night.

On July 26, 2013, in a deal that allowed Castro to avoid a possible death sentence, he pleaded guilty to more than 900 charges against him, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder (for causing Knight to miscarry). On August 1, a judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. A month later, on September 3, Castro was found dead in his prison cell after hanging himself with a sheet.

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