Ariel Castro was born in the summer of 1960 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. After his parent’s divorce, Castro moved to mainland US with his mother and siblings. They went to the east coast, and then moved to Cleveland, Ohio. Castro attended a local Cleveland high school and met his girlfriend (Grimilda Figueroa) in the neighborhood his mother moved into in the 1980s. From there Castro and Figueroa lived with both sets of parents before moving into their own home in 1992.
Apparently, that’s when the trouble began.
According to Figueroa’s family, Castro began beating Grimilda, breaking her nose, ribs, and arms. He also reportedly threw her down a set of stairs in the house, which resulted in a cracked skull. And, though Castro was arrested for domestic violence in 1993, a grand jury failed to indict him.
By 1996, Figueroa had had enough and she moved out of the home she shared, taking their four kids with her. By 2005, she’d filed a restraining order due to Castro’s “frequent abduction” of their children, and his inflicting “multiple severe injuries” on her. The order was granted, but dismissed a mere few months later. Sadly Figueroa died in 2012, due to a brain tumor.
Thus, it seemed that Castro could get away with anything. He’d beaten his common-law wife to within inches of her life on multiple occasions, but neither the arrest, nor the restraining order held up. He also had kidnapped his own children, and suffered no legal consequences.
His legal breaks aside, Castro didn’t have the same luck at his job. Before his ultimate arrest at the age of 52, Castro had worked as a bus driver for the Cleveland school district. However, he’d been fired for “bad judgment” which included: making an illegal U-turn with kids on board, using the bus to go grocery shopping, leaving the bus unattended while taking a nap at home, and leaving a child on the bus while he went out for lunch.
These were far from Castro’s most grievous transgressions though. In fact, Castro drove that school bus for years after he’d started committing heinous crimes. Those began in 2002 with the abduction of Michelle Knight.
In 2003, Amanda Berry went missing.
Then, in 2004, Gina DeJesus disappeared.
During the 11 years that followed the first kidnapping, Castro kept all the women locked securely in portions of his house where he would rape them and beat them repeatedly. Berry had a daughter by him, and Knight stated that she became pregnant multiple times, and each time Castro beat her into a miscarriage. The women kept diaries of their extreme abuse, and their “testing” by Castro, where he would leave certain parts of the house unlocked to see if they would try to escape and then beat them for trying. It wasn’t until 2013 that Berry realized that Castro had accidentally left the large door to the outside unlocked. She took her daughter up to the locked screen and shouted for help until a neighbor heard her, and was able to knock away a portion of the door for she and her 6-year-old daughter to escape.
When she called 911, Berry said, “Help me, I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now!”
After his arrest, the Cuyahoga County grand jury returned a true bill of indictment for Castro which included 977 counts: 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 of rape, seven of gross sexual imposition, six of felonious assault, three of child endangerment, two of aggravated murder, and one of possession of criminal tools. Castro was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
One month into his sentence, Castro was found hanging by a bed sheet in his cell.
It goes without saying, but Ariel Castro was a troubled man – not just in the fact that he abducted several women (one of them only 14 at the time), and kept them imprisoned, but that he seems to have truly believed that the relationships were “consensual.”
This theme came up over and over again at Castro’s trial, and in his statements after his arrest. He speaks of “harmony in the home” and even left a “will” regarding his possessions (going to his victims) in the event of his death.
He showed photos of Berry’s (and his) child to family members, calling the child “my girlfriend’s daughter,” and Berry’s child called Castro’s mother “grandma.”
In sum, it’s painfully obvious that Castro didn’t just kidnap and terrorize these women, but he came to consider them a part of his “family.” While none of the women felt similarly, Castro had been able to brainwash himself into believing that his victims somehow loved him. For whatever reason, this sort of reverse Stockholm syndrome seems to be present in other collectors as well (Gary Heidnik, Phillip Garrido, etc). No matter how terribly they abuse their captives, they go to their fates believing that a mutual emotion exists, of caring or indebtedness.
It is remarkably creepy, and a blessing, all at the same time.
Well, this macabre delusion is likely what enabled all of the victims in these cases to be found alive.
In Heidnik’s case, he allowed a woman to leave for a time because he believed her when she said she’d return without reporting him. In Garrido’s case, he so trusted his victim that he brought her to a parole office with their children in tow. And, in Castro’s case, he became complacent, leaving a door unlocked. The perpetrators believed their own lies: that their victims were beginning to feel the same attachment to them as they did toward their chosen captives.
But in each case, the victims’ courage and unstoppable will resulted in the arrest of their captor – and the freedom of those they were held with – proving that the heart cannot be twisted; and that true love will always prevail.