The sentencing hearing for Ariel Castro, the Cleveland bus driver who imprisoned and repeatedly sexually abused three women for years, began on Thursday with police officers giving new and vivid details about the situation that shocked the nation.
The outcome is a foregone conclusion since Castro last week accepted a plea bargain designed to keep him off of death row. Castro agreed to accept a sentence of life imprisonment plus 1,000 years, ensuring he will never be able to leave from behind bars.
Still, the drama at what was expected to be hours of the hearing was sharp as participants and a television audience waited for Castro to speak about the hundreds of crimes to which he has already pleaded guilty. It was also possible that at least one of his victims will appear or make a statement.
A police officer who helped rescue the women said one of the victims was reluctant to come out of her room during the rescue. The women were scared even after their liberation, but the details of their horror just tumbled out of the mouths of the women, who said they were beaten and starved.
“They were just shouting out a lot of things,” said Cleveland police officer Barb Johnson. She described the women as thin, pale and scared.
Prosecutors have also given details of Castro’s daily assaults of the three women, as recounted in their diaries.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday that Castro, who chained his captives and fed them only one meal a day, “admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct” but “remains remorseless for his actions.”
The memorandum outlines the women’s pain.
“The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war … of being treated like an animal,” it says.
Castro lured one of the women into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and tricked another by saying she could see his daughter, McGinty said.
Castro chained his captives by their ankles, fed them only one meal a day and provided plastic toilets in their bedrooms that were infrequently emptied, the filing said.
Each woman was kidnapped separately when they accepted a ride from Castro on Cleveland's west side. The women disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Among the victims, Amanda Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house. Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.