Ohio prosecutors plan to seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty against Ariel Castro, the man suspected of imprisoning three women for about a decade at his Cleveland home.
The charges relate to alleged forced miscarriages suffered by one victim.
Ariel Castro, 52, was arraigned in court earlier for the kidnap and rape of Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Michelle Knight, 32.
Amanda Berry escaped on Monday and was able to raise the alarm.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said the murder charges were based on evidence from one of the women held captive in Ariel Castro’s house that he had impregnated her, then physically abused and starved her in order to induce miscarriages.
“I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders, and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies that the offender perpetuated against the hostages during this decade-long ordeal,” Tim McGinty told a news conference.
“My office will also engage in a formal process in which we evaluate to seek charges eligible for the death penalty.”
“This child kidnapper operated a torture chamber and private prison in the heart of our city,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Ariel Castro appeared in court in Cleveland, handcuffed and dressed in blue overalls. He did not enter a plea.
Ohio prosecutors plan to seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty against Ariel Castro
He is charged with four counts of kidnapping, covering the three initial abduction victims and Jocelyn, Amanda Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was apparently conceived and born in captivity.
The former school bus driver also faces three counts of rape, one against each woman.
Bail was set at $8 million, $2 million for each victim, meaning he will remain in custody.
Ariel Castro has been placed on suicide watch and will be kept in isolation, his court-appointed lawyer Kathleen DeMetz told reporters.
According to CBS News, Ariel Castro confessed to his crimes in a long, hand-written letter, apparently a suicide note that was found in the house.
In the letter Ariel Castro said he had been raped as a child by a relative, a law enforcement source told the US network.
Ariel Castro’s two brothers, Pedro and Onil, also appeared in court on unrelated charges. They had been arrested, but police found no evidence linking them to the crime.
Pedro Castro was fined $100 for public drinking, while two minor counts against Onil Castro were dropped.
On Thursday, ariel Castro’s daughter, Arlene, who was one of the last people to see Gina DeJesus before she disappeared in 2004 aged 14, wept during a TV interview.
Describing herself as “disappointed, embarrassed, mainly devastated”, she apologized to Gina DeJesus.
The three women were all abducted after accepting rides from Ariel Castro, according to a leaked police report.
They told officials they could only remember being outside twice during their time in captivity.
Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins said the women had told police they had only gone as far as a garage on the property, disguised in wigs and hats.
Brian Cummins, citing police information, said the victims had been kept apart inside the house until their captor felt he had enough control to allow them to mingle.
Amanda Berry, whose disappearance in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday was widely publicized in the local media, returned to her sister’s home on Wednesday.
A few hours later, Gina DeJesus, who went missing in 2004 at the age of 14, was also brought home.
Michelle Knight, who was 20 when she disappeared in 2002, remains in hospital in a good condition.
Ohio police have praised the bravery of three women – Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight – found alive on Monday evening in a house in Cleveland, after they vanished about a decade ago.
Amanda Berry, who disappeared in 2003 aged 16, escaped with a neighbor’s help while her alleged captor, later identified as Ariel Castro, was away.
Gina DeJesus, who went missing aged 14 a year later, and Michele Knight, who vanished in 2002 aged about 19, were also rescued from the property.
School bus driver Ariel Castro and his two brothers have been arrested.
The three women were taken to hospital for a check-up and to be reunited with their relatives before being discharged on Tuesday morning.
A six-year-old girl also rescued from the house was believed to be the daughter of Amanda Berry, Deputy Police Chief Ed Tomba told a news conference.
FBI Special Agent Stephen Anthony said: “The nightmare is over. These three young ladies have provided us with the ultimate definition of survival and perseverance. The healing can now begin.”
“Yes, law enforcement professionals do cry,” he added.
Ed Tomba vowed prosecutors would “bring the full weight of justice” on those responsible in the “horrific case”.
Ariel Castro, 52, and his two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, have been taken into custody.
Amanda Berry disappeared in 2003 aged 16
Police Chief Michael McGrath said the women were believed to have been tied up at the house. Officials said they may also investigate other properties.
Amanda Berry, now 27, escaped on Monday evening when a neighbor heard her screaming and kicking a door, while her alleged captor was out of the house.
Rescuer Charles Ramsey said he had helped kick in a metal door so that Amanda Berry could climb outside and phone police.
In a recording of Monday’s emergency call, Amanda Berry says: “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Amanda Berry identifies herself to the 911 dispatcher, saying she has been on the news for the past decade, and begging for help to arrive before her captor returns.
Police Chief Michael McGrath told Tuesday’s news conference: “Thankfully, due to Amanda’s brave actions these three women are alive today.”
Neighbor Anna Tejeda said she had refused to believe the young woman at first.
“You’re not Amanda Berry. Amanda Berry is dead,” she said, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Other neighbors in the working-class district said they did not realize anybody was living at the house at 2207 Seymour Ave.
During the news conference, Public Safety Director Martin Flask said that in March 2000, Ariel Castro had called the authorities to report a fight on his street, but no arrest was made.
In January 2004, police called at Ariel Castro’s home, but no-one answered. They were alerted by children’s services after a child was left at a depot on a school bus that Ariel Castro had been driving. Authorities concluded there had been no criminal intent.
Amanda Berry had last been heard from aged 16 when she called her sister on 21 April 2003 to say she would get a lift home from her job at a Burger King restaurant.
In 2004, Gina DeJesus – who is now 23 years old – was believed to have been on her way home from school when she went missing.
Their disappearances made local headlines in Cleveland, and many assumed the girls were dead.
The case of Michele Knight, who was older than the other women when she disappeared and is now 32, was less widely publicized.
Her grandmother, Deborah Knight, was quoted by the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper on Monday as saying the authorities concluded she had run away.
The victims’ families have responded with stunned joy. Sylvia Colon, a relative of Gina DeJesus, said they had never given up hope.
But Amanda Berry’s mother, Louwana, died in March 2006, three years after her daughter went missing. A local politician said the mother had died of a “broken heart”.
In an extraordinary twist, it emerged that Ariel Castro’s son – also called Ariel, although he goes by his middle name Anthony – wrote an article about the disappearance of Gina DeJesus for his local newspaper in 2004.
Police have not commented on the case of a fourth missing girl, Ashley Summers, who disappeared in the same area in July 2007 when 14 years old.
Ariel Castro has been identified as the prime suspect in the astonishing kidnapping case of three women held captive for ten years in Cleveland and he has been taken into custody – as well as two of his own brothers.
Ariel Castro, 52, of Cleveland, Ohio was arrested on Monday after one of the alleged victims, Amanda Berry escaped his home and called police.
He was a school bus driver in the Cleveland area, according to reports.
Only Ariel Castro lived at the home. The brothers lived elsewhere, police told reporters.
Ariel Castro has been identified as the prime suspect in the astonishing kidnapping case of three women held captive for ten years in Cleveland
Ariel Castro’s Facebook page depicts a man with a passion for motorcycles and the bass guitar.
His last post to the social networking site on May 2 says: “Miracles really do happen, God is good :)”
Cleveland’s police chief said on Monday night that the victims were tied up in the house where they were found and had been there since they disappeared.
The county prosecutor joined dozens of police officers and sheriff’s deputies at the scene as they began searching the house late Monday.
Authorities say the women have been taken to a hospital to reunite with relatives and seem to be in good health.
Michelle Knight had been missing since 2002, Amanda Berry since 2003 and Gina DeJesus since 2004.
Remarkably, Ariel Castro’s son – also named Ariel who now goes by “Anthony” – penned an article for the Cleveland Plain Press about the disappearance of Gina DeJesus back in 2004.
Anthony Castro told WKYC-TV reporter Sara Shookman: “This is beyond comprehension… I’m truly stunned right now.”
Also struck by the allegations, the suspects’ uncle, Julio Castro, told CNN: “I never want to see them again.”
Police didn’t immediately provide any details of how the women were found but said they appeared to be in good health and had been taken to a hospital to be reunited with relatives and to be evaluated.
They said a 6-year-old girl also was found in the home.
On a recorded 911 call Monday, Amanda Berry declared: “I’m Amanda Berry. I’ve been on the news for the last 10 years.”
The woman said she had been taken by someone and begged for police officers to arrive at the home on Cleveland’s west side before he returned.
“I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years,” Amanda Berry told the dispatcher.
“And I’m here. I’m free now.”
Amanda Berry disappeared at age 16 on April 21, 2003, when she called her sister to say she was getting a ride home from her job at a Burger King.
Gina DeJesus went missing at age 14 on her way home from school about a year later. They were found just a few miles from where they had disappeared.
Police said Michelle Knight went missing in 2002 and is 32 now. They didn’t provide current ages for the other two women.