Victims May Speak As Cleveland Abductor Is Sentenced To Life In Prison

by
Reuters
Three women imprisoned for a decade in a Cleveland home may speak of their abuse in person, via video or through representatives on Thursday at a court hearing where their abductor is expected to be formally sentenced to life in prison.

Three women imprisoned for a decade in a Cleveland home may speak of their abuse in person, via video or through representatives on Thursday at a court hearing where their abductor is expected to be formally sentenced to life in prison.

Ariel Castro, 53, pleaded guilty last week to 937 criminal charges including kidnapping and rape of the women, kidnapping of a 6-year-old girl he fathered in captivity with one of the women, and murder for forcing another one of the women to abort during a pregnancy.

Under the deal, he is to serve life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. He agreed to the deal in return for prosecutors sparing him the possibility of the death penalty.

Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Michelle Knight, 32, all went missing from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 and were discovered in May after neighbors heard cries for help from Berry coming from Castro's home.

The women have said little in public since they were freed, releasing one short video expressing gratitude for the support they have received and asking for privacy. Berry appeared at a concert in Cleveland on Saturday and waved to the crowd.

There have been some media reports, citing unnamed sources, that at least one of the women may appear in person on Thursday to confront Castro about the abuse, although lawyers for the women and officials in contact with them have not confirmed this.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutors' office said Castro and his attorneys will be allowed an opportunity to speak at the hearing followed by prosecutors presenting information "relevant to sentencing" which may include statements by the victims or representatives of the victims.

In a report released on Wednesday prior to the hearing, prosecutors said although Castro admitted to some of the offenses, he has never expressed remorse.

The women led a grim life of constant mental and physical assault and isolation after they were abducted, the report said. They were kept apart from each other, were often chained or restrained, received only one meal a day, one or two showers a week and had to use small plastic toilets that were not often emptied.

The three survivors told investigators Castro controlled every aspect of their lives including using the cold basement and hot attic, and sexual abuse as punishment, and threatening them with a gun. He also told the women that he had other victims, and that "some of them made it home, but that others had not," prosecutors said.

The opinion of a psychiatrist attached to the prosecutors' report said that despite the abuse, the women "acted with fortitude, courage and grace."

The Cleveland Courage Fund, a trust set up by the city council for the women and the girl fathered by Castro, had grown to $1.3 million from donations from more than 10,500 individual donors as of Tuesday.