US kidnap suspect Ariel Castro appears in court, bail set at $8m

Thursday 09 May 2013 22.47
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Ariel Castro (right) was arraigned on charges of rape and kidnapping, while his brothers face misdemeanour charges
Ariel Castro (right) was arraigned on charges of rape and kidnapping, while his brothers face misdemeanour charges
He looked down at the ground while lawyers spoke to the judge
He looked down at the ground while lawyers spoke to the judge
Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry were freed this week
Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight and Amanda Berry were freed this week
Gina DeJesus raises her thumb as she arrives at her family house
Gina DeJesus raises her thumb as she arrives at her family house

A former school bus driver accused of kidnapping three young women and raping them during a decade of captivity has appeared in court in the US.

Bail for Ariel Castro, 52, was set at $8m (€6m) by Cleveland Municipal Court.

Judge Lauren Moore set the bond at $2m for each of the three women and a child who was born in captivity.

It was the first time Mr Castro was seen in public since his arrest on Monday following the women's escape from his house in a neighbourhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

Mr Castro was formally charged yesterday with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

His court-appointed lawyer, Kathleen DeMetz, said Mr Castro was unemployed. He was fired from his job driving school buses last November.

He is being kept on suicide watch, and his lawyer said she expected him to be kept in isolation in jail.

Officials said the three women were at times bound in chains or rope and endured starvation, beatings, sexual assaults and in the case of one of them, several miscarriages deliberately induced by their captor.

Their imprisonment came to an end on Monday after neighbours, drawn to the house by cries for help, broke through a door to rescue Amanda Berry.

The disappearance of Ms Berry in 2003, the day before her 17th birthday, was widely publicised in the local media.

Rescued with Ms Berry, now 27, was her six-year-old daughter, conceived and born during her confinement.

Two fellow captives - Gina DeJesus, 23, who vanished at age 14 in 2004, and Michelle Knight, 32, who was 20 when she went missing in 2002 - were also freed.

Initially, Mr Castro's two brothers, Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, were also arrested as suspects in the case.

However, police said they were not charged after investigators determined they had no knowledge of the abductions or captivity of the women.

They appeared in court today on unrelated outstanding misdemeanour charges and were released.

Ms Berry told police that her escape on Monday had been her first chance to break free in the ten years that she was held, seizing the opportunity during Mr Castro's momentary absence.