Monday 14 October 2019

Ohio kidnappings: women were held with ropes and chains, police confirm

AMANDA Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus, the three women held captive in a house in Cleveland, Ohio, for nearly a decade, were restrained with ropes and chains, police have said.

The trio were allowed out into the back garden occasionally, according to Chief Michael McGrath.


Chief McGrath told NBC's Today programme that the physical condition of the three women was "very good considering the circumstances."


"We have confirmation they were bound and there were chains and ropes in the hall," he said.


Separately, Kevin Freeman, a reporter who works for Cleveland's Fox News, told CNN that according to his sources: "The letters R. I. P – Rest in Peace – are scrawled on the wall in the basement and there's a woman's name which would lead you to believe that another woman was in there at some time." The claims realise speculation that there was a fourth woman, or perhaps even more, in the house at one point.


He added: "They also say that one of the girls told investigators that that woman was with them for a while and then one day, she woke up and the girl was no longer there."


Ariel Castro, 52, is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of the three women. He has been arrested along with his two brothers, Pedro, 54 and Onil, 50.


Chief McGrath said that the three men who "are talking" but he would not say if they have confessed. He says a charging decision could come later Wednesday.


He said that until the interviews with the three women were complete, it would not be possible to describe in detail how they were treated, and said he could not confirm reports that the captives had had multiple pregnancies.


"The investigative task force team, which is comprised of the FBI and Cleveland officers, has been interviewing the victims since last evening and they'll continue today," he said.


Neighbours and community activists claimed on Wednesday that Ariel Castro handed out fliers when Ms DeJesus went missing, and even performing music at a fundraiser held in her honour in the years after she vanished. He attended a candlelight vigil for her only a year ago.


Tito DeJesus, an uncle of Gina, played in bands with Castro over the last 20 years. He recalled visiting Castro's house but never noticing anything out of the ordinary.


Juan Perez, who lives two doors down from the house, said Castro was always happy and respectful. "He gained trust with the kids and with the parents. You can only do that if you're nice," Perez said.


The family house of Gina DeJesus, one of the three women which were held captive for a decade, as it is decorated by well wishers in Cleveland, Ohio


Castro was friends with the father of Gina DeJesus, one of the missing women, and helped search for her after she disappeared, said Khalid Samad, a friend of the family.


"When we went out to look for Gina, he helped pass out fliers," said Samad, a community activist who was at the hospital with DeJesus and her family Monday night. "You know, he was friends with the family."


Antony Quiros said he was at the vigil about a year ago and saw Castro comforting Gina DeJesus' mother.


Mr Berry, 27, Ms Knight, 32 and Ms DeJesus, 23, were freed after almost a decade inside the Ohio home. A six-year-old girl, Ms Berry's daughter, was also held in the house.


The women, who were reunited with their family members, remain in seclusion. They were rescued after Ms Berry kicked out the bottom portion of a locked screen door and used a neighbour's telephone to call the police. An officer showed up minutes later and Ms Berry ran out and threw her arms around the officer, a neighbour said.


The first picture of Michelle Knight meanwhile has emerged. She is reportedly suffering from hearing loss and facial bone damage after years of abuse.


Her mother, Barbara Knight, speaking from her home in Florida, told the Today show that she had not yet been reunited.


"I don't want her to think that I forgot about her," she said. "Hopefully whatever happened between us, if something did - I hope it heals because I really want to take her back to Florida with me."


Police are facing questions about their handling of the missing persons case. One neighbour alleged on Tuesday that she had once seen a naked woman crawling around the back garden, but police had not done anything about it. Another claimed to have once heard banging coming from the house.


Chief McGrath said he was "absolutely" sure police did everything they could to find the women over the years. He disputed claims by neighbours that officers had been called to the house before for suspicious circumstances.


By Chris Irvine,

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