CLEVELAND — As more grim details emerged Thursday about the long captivity of the three women rescued from imprisonment in a dilapidated home here, prosecutors said they would seek murder charges against the man charged in the abductions, accusing him of forcing at least one of the women to miscarry.
Timothy McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said the miscarriages, which at least one of the women described to the police, could be grounds for seeking the death penalty for the suspect, Ariel Castro. Castro, a former bus driver, enticed the women off the street with offers of a ride home, authorities say.
During his first public appearance since his arrest Monday, Castro, 52, buried his lower face in a blue jacket at an arraignment in Cleveland Municipal Court, where bail was set at $8 million. He was arraigned on charges of rape and kidnapping in the abductions of Amanda Berry, held 10 years; Gina DeJesus, held nine years; and Michelle Knight, held 11 years. He was also charged with kidnapping a daughter Berry gave birth to in captivity. She is now 6.
Immediately after police officers broke into Castro's fortified home Monday afternoon, Knight told her rescuers that Castro had impregnated her multiple times.
"She stated that Ariel would make her abort the baby," the police wrote in a report obtained by the New York Times. Castro would starve Knight for weeks, she told the police, then repeatedly punch her in the stomach "until she miscarried."
McGinty said at a news briefing that Ohio law allowed for the death penalty for "aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping" and that he was studying whether to seek capital murder charges.
FBI specialists have spent hours with each woman after their rescue, gathering enough information to charge Castro, the New York Times reported, citing an unnamed official with knowledge of the investigation. They stopped short of making them relive their experience, said the official, who described their captivity as depraved.
The women told the police that Castro had first kept them chained in the basement but eventually allowed them onto the second floor. The official said the women later described how they were brought into the room and out of the room, when the chains were on, when the chains were off, as well as when they were rewarded with trips to the toilet and occasional showers.
Although Berry and DeJesus returned to the homes of family members on Wednesday, Knight, now 32 and the longest held, remains in the hospital.
Unlike the two younger women, whose disappearances inspired vigils, posters and police task forces, Knight received much less attention, apparently because the police regarded her as a runaway. Her mother, Barbara Knight, described her as having "a mental condition," according to a missing person's report from 2002 released by the city. Knight was 21 when she disappeared and had fought with her mother's partner.
A police report gave a detailed account of the women's escape, beginning with Berry's discovery that a door was unlocked, leaving only a bolted outer door.
Berry feared it was a test: She said Castro occasionally left a door unlocked to test them. But she called to neighbors on a porch for help.
When the police broke into Castro's house, Knight threw herself into the arms of an officer, then said she was having trouble breathing, according to the initial police report.
McGinty, the prosecutor, pleaded with members of the news media not to pursue interviews with the women. Victim specialists with the FBI, he said, told him the women "need space and time" before officials press for details of their captivity needed for a prosecution.
"We cannot have them subjected to 50 interviews and then go seek the interview to get the detailed evidence that we need," he said.