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Cleveland Kidnapping Victims Lived in ‘Dungeon-Like’ Environment

May 8, 2013 at 12:00 AM EST
Details have emerged about the specific ordeal endured by three women held captive in a Cleveland home for 10 years. Ray Suarez talks with Peter Krouse of The Cleveland Plain Dealer about the "dungeon-like" conditions, the charges against suspect Ariel Castro and reports of neighbors trying to report Castro to the police.
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TRANSCRIPT

RAY SUAREZ: For the latest, we turn to Peter Krouse. He’s a reporter with The Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, which has been closely tracking the story.

Peter, welcome.

What do we know about this case that we didn’t know this morning? I know the prosecutor and the chief investigator gave a news conference just before we went on the air this evening. Did they reveal some new facts?

PETER KROUSE, The Cleveland Plain Dealer: Well, they did reveal some new facts.

Obviously, the — one of the more interesting facts is the fact that two of the brothers are not being charged, and that they’re saying that they — there’s no evidence that they had anything to do with this crime. I think most of the reporting up to this point has been that all three were going to be charged in connection with this.

Instead, it’s just Ariel Castro, the owner of the house, charged with kidnapping and rape. I think some of the more interesting details that have come out is that these women were in this home, it looks like, for the entire time, almost the entire time.

We are told — and I think this came out at the press conference — that they left the house twice in disguise and they went into the garage. They never apparently left the property in 10 years. Other information that came out today, not necessarily at the press conference, had to do with some of the conditions in there.

We had known about the ropes and the chains that were found. We also understand that there were slots in some of the doors where items could be passed in and out, such as food, which conjures up an image of a dungeon-like environment. We also learned that — at the press conference that the — that Amanda Berry gave birth to her child in an inflatable pool.

The information about the — one of the other victims, Michelle Knight, being forced to deliver that baby was also, I think, some new information.

RAY SUAREZ: Three charges of rape were filed and four of kidnapping. Who was the fourth person?

PETER KROUSE: I believe that would be the child, the six-year-old daughter of Amanda Berry.

I believe that would be the fourth person. Interestingly, I understand there was no information apparently that relates the suspects here to the disappearance of a woman named Ashley Summers, who disappeared in 2007 when she was 14. I think the FBI and police were hopeful that this investigation would turn up some leads into that disappearance. My understanding is that it hasn’t so far.

RAY SUAREZ: The two other brothers, Pedro and Onil, they weren’t taken into custody at the house?

PETER KROUSE: No, they were taken into custody as they arrived at the house where they lived on another street. They didn’t live there with their brother Ariel.

RAY SUAREZ: There was a steady drumbeat of stories coming out of that West Cleveland neighborhood talking about attempts to tell the police over the years, attempts to report Ariel Castro for various infractions.

Did the police handle that today in the press conference?

PETER KROUSE: I did not hear the entire press conference, but I believe they did say that they did everything they could.

In fact, yes, I know they did. They said that they investigated every lead that they knew of. And I know we have reported in The Plain Dealer a lot of the efforts that they went to, to try and find these girls. One of the officials said that, in hindsight, you know, they may discover that there was something that they missed, but that it would be hindsight. It was not — it wasn’t anything that they could pinpoint.

These cases — at least in the case of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, the two who were abducted as teenagers, those cases were pretty well publicized. And the efforts by the police to find some answers were pretty well publicized, too.

RAY SUAREZ: We caught fleeting glimpses of two of the women, Ms. Berry and Ms. DeJesus. The third, Michelle Knight, hasn’t been seen at all. She remains in the hospital.

Do we know anything about her physical condition and why she’s needed to be hospitalized all this time since she was freed?

PETER KROUSE: Well, I believe, when they entered the house, Michelle Knight complained of some heart problems. I’m guessing that that’s why she was placed back in the hospital, that perhaps there’s an issue. She was having heart pains or something of that nature.

I don’t know exactly why she went back into the hospital. I did hear, though, that — I think I heard that she was in good condition. I don’t think there’s — I’m not aware of anything that is life-threatening or anything of that nature.

While they were reported initially in pretty good condition, you know, I’m sure, you know, they had some physical problems that are going to have to be addressed.

RAY SUAREZ: The two brothers who remain uncharged are in police custody because they have other pending items before the police. But Ariel Castro, what’s the next shoe to drop in his legal process?

PETER KROUSE: Well, I believe he will be arraigned tomorrow morning.

And an arraignment is when you plead to the charges. I am sure Ariel Castro will plead not guilty to these charges. He will — depending on what his financial wherewithal, he will either — he will either hire a lawyer or be assigned a lawyer by the court. I’m sure he will plead not guilty. And then the process of pretrials and discovery of information will begin.

This could take a long, long time. And, also, there could be other charges as a result of this. I’m not aware of any other potential victims that could arise from this investigation, but this is just the very beginning of the legal process. And that, I believe, will begin tomorrow with the arraignment.

RAY SUAREZ: Peter Krouse of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, thanks for joining us.

PETER KROUSE: You’re welcome.