Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed on Wednesday that Ariel 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 says many of the specific charges in Ariel Castro’s indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.
“The entries speak of forced s**ual 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.
The sentencing could take up to four hours, court officials said, with Ariel Castro, his attorneys, his victims and prosecutors getting a chance to speak.
The legal team representing the women’s interests declined to comment in advance on whether they would testify or send statements to the court.
In the court filing, Tim McGinty offered new details of Ariel Castro’s treatment of the women, who he said were kept “in a state of powerlessness” through physical and psychological violence.
“He made them believe that their physical survival depended on him, and he threatened to end their lives if they did not comply with his every demand,” Tim McGinty said.
Ariel Castro, 53, lured Michelle Knight into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and tricked Gina DeJesus by saying she could see his daughter, Tim McGinty said.
He 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.
Ariel Castro menaced them with a gun, threatened them with tales of other captives, some of whom hadn’t made it home, and at one point locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days while he had a visitor.
The captor claimed he didn’t have an exit strategy from his complicated double life and finally gave the women a chance to escape by leaving a door unlocked, the court filing said.
The women, each kidnapped separately when they accepted a ride from Ariel Castro on Cleveland’s blue-collar west side, quickly escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out the door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours.
The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
There was no comment from Ariel Castro’s defense team on the eve of sentencing.
Other horrific details of the women’s ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement or a bedroom heater or inside a van, with one woman forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, having a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.
Ariel Castro repeatedly starved and beat Michelle Knight each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.
He forced Michelle Knight on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with Amanda Berry on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Ariel Castro raped Michelle Knight.
Prosecutors will ask the judge to prohibit Ariel Castro from ever seeing his daughter, now six.
Tim McGinty says experts will also discuss how Ariel Castro was able to keep the women captive for so long.
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.
The third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.
The sentencing memorandum was compiled from a wealth of evidence including diaries kept by the three young women which paint a horrifying picture of the physical and psychological torture they were forced to endure.
In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors describe the horrific conditions the women endured. The women’s diaries, they say, “document abuse and life as a captive”.
It also includes an evaluation by a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State University who describes the emotional toll that the ten years of captivity had on the women.
“He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,” wrote Dr. Frank Ochberg.
Ariel Castro told the women he had had other victims, that some of whom had made it home and others who had not.
“These and other threats had the effect of terrifying the victims into subservience,” Dr. Frank Ochberg explained.
He added: “Castro hurt each of the three young women that he captured and confined in ways that create lasting wounds. He terrified them.
“The body responds to terror long afterward with uncontrollable visions, smells, sounds and sensations. These are called trauma memories and they are unlike ordinary memory. They come at night in the form of nightmares.”
In his evaluation, Dr. Frank Ochberg wrote that Michell Knight – who was kidnapped first after Ariel Castro promised to give her a puppy for her son – suffered “the longest and most severely”.
Ariel Castro has admitted that on one occasion Michelle Knight told him she may be pregnant and he forced a termination by putting her on a tea-only diet for several days, made her perform “knee bends” and jumping jacks.
However, when Amanda Berry fell pregnant, Michelle Knight helped save the baby’s life as Ariel Castro threatened to kill her if the child did not survive.
“It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth. She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” wrote Dr. Frank Ochberg.
“At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and s**ual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”
The memorandum also describes how Ariel Castro controlled the movements of the women, keeping them in locked rooms and using physical restraints.
“There is only one bathroom in the house, on the first floor. The Defendant would not allow the victims downstairs to use the bathroom. They only had access to plastic toilets in the bedrooms. They were emptied infrequently.”
The document adds: “He controlled the temperature and the inflow of food and drink. He used the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques.”
At one point during 2005 the three women were kept physically restrained in a vehicle in a garage for three days while the defendant had a visitor staying.
Amanda Berry’s diary was addressed to her mother, and then after her mom died, she “wrote to her mother in heaven, seeking to soothe her” and praying for deliverance and the health of her daughter who Ariel Castro fathered.
The diaries show how “the victims had to watch the rest of the world turn as they were held in captivity”.
“Holidays, world events, and even the passing of Ms Berry’s mother were observed by them, removed from the outside world.”
The purpose of the memorandum is to help establish a record that will serve as justification for Ariel Castro’s sentence should it come under review in the future.
Ariel Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years.