Diaries kept by three young women held captive for a decade in an Ohio home helped US prosecutors describe their suffering in a memo released ahead of their tormentor’s sentencing hearing Thursday.
The entries spoke of rape, vicious beatings, of being chained to a wall and locked in a dark room, of “being treated like an animal,” of “anticipating the next session of abuse,” and of “his threats to kill,” prosecutors said.
The women also wrote of “dreams of some day escaping and being reunited with family,” of “missing the lives they once enjoyed” and of their overwhelming desire for freedom.
Their tormentor, Ariel Castro, last week agreed to plead guilty and spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole in exchange for prosecutors taking the death penalty off the table.
The former school bus driver, 53, is expected to speak about his catalogue of crimes when he is formally sentenced Thursday.
“Although he admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct, the defendant remains remorseless for his actions,” Cuyahoga county prosecutor Timothy McGinty wrote in the sentencing memo released late Wednesday.
At least one of Castro’s victims — Michelle Knight, 32 — may also deliver a statement by video or even in person, CNN reported.
Knight was the first to be snatched off the street in 2002 when she was 20. Next came Amanda Berry, kidnapped the night before her 17th birthday in 2003. Then came Gina DeJesus who was just 14 and a friend of Castro’s daughter when she was abducted in 2004.
The stunning case came to light after Berry managed to escape with her six-year-old daughter by calling out to a neighbour for help through a locked front door on May 6.
For years, the women were kept chained by their ankles in locked rooms in Castro’s house in a working class neighbourhood of Cleveland.
They were rarely given access to the bathroom and instead had to relieve themselves in plastic buckets that were “emptied infrequently,” prosecutors said.
Knight was impregnated four times during her 11 years of captivity. Castro terminated at least one of the pregnancies by starving her for days and then kicking and jumping on her stomach.
Berry was allowed to carry a pregnancy to term, giving birth in a plastic kiddie pool on Christmas Day, 2006.
The chains eventually came off once Castro had terrified his victims into “subservience,” allowing the women to occasionally share “faith and friendship,” the court documents said. But the locks remained and Castro would beat them whenever they tried to escape.
Among his many threats and manipulations were dire stories of other victims who never made it home and his desire to hunt for “replacements.”
Castro admitted that he “did not have an exit strategy” and claimed he “gave them all a chance to escape” by leaving the door to Berry’s room unlocked, prosecutors said.
DNA tests showed that Castro fathered Berry’s child. He has asked Judge Michael Russo to allow him to see her, a request the judge deemed “inappropriate.”
Prosecutors said they relied on the diaries for many of the 977 criminal charges lodged against Castro.
Berry initially addressed her entries to her mother, according to a report by a psychiatrist who evaluated the women. After learning of her mother’s death, she wrote to soothe her mother’s spirit in heaven.
Police do not understand why none of the people who visited the unassuming house at 2207 Seymour — including Castro’s family and girlfriend — realised what was going on there.
Castro’s adult children and two brothers — who had to go into hiding after being briefly detained as suspects — have publicly condemned and disowned him.
His victims have begged the media and public to respect their privacy and give them time to heal. In a statement last week they said they were “relieved” by the plea deal and “satisfied by this resolution to the case.”
In a video released by a public relations firm last month, the women put on brave faces and thanked their supporters.
“I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family, my friends. It’s been unbelievable,” said Berry, who made no mention of her daughter. “I am getting stronger each day, and having my privacy has helped immensely.”
Knight said she did not want to be consumed by hatred and was looking forward to her “new life.”
“I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face, and with my head held high and with my feet held firmly on the ground,” she said, reading slowly and carefully from her notes.
DeJesus seemed the most cautious of the three, simply thanking people for their support.
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