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Kidnapped Ohio women kept diaries, prosecutors say

  • cleavlandwomenupdateap.jpg

    Images from a video released in July featuring the Cleveland women held for a decade provided by Hennes Paynter Communications shows from left: Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. (AP)

  • Diary_073113.jpg

    July 26, 2013: Ariel Castro, right, walks into the courtroom watched closely by a deputy sheriff in Cleveland. Castro (AP)

Three women held captive in a run-down home for a decade kept diaries documenting the horrific physical and sexual abuse they suffered on a daily basis, prosecutors said Wednesday.

The women's kidnapper, Ariel Castro, lured one of them into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and later locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days when someone visited him, prosecutors said. Castro, a former school bus driver, 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, they said in a court document.

One of the women broke free in May and called for help, frantically telling an emergency dispatcher, "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm, I'm here. I'm free now."

Castro has pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder. He's being sentenced Thursday.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed Wednesday that Castro, who chained his captives by their ankles 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 charges in Castro's indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.

In the memorandum, prosecutors describe the horrific conditions the women endured at Castro's hands. The women's diaries, they say, "document abuse and life as a captive."

"The entries speak of forced sexual 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," the memorandum says.

When Castro was arrested, his attorneys said evidence would show he wasn't a monster. The county prosecutor says the facts he'll present Thursday at Castro's sentencing, at which Castro faces life in prison plus 1,000 years, will prove the lawyers wrong.

"You'll make the same logical judgment when you see the facts," McGinty said last week after Castro pleaded guilty. "You have not seen the evidence yet."

The legal team representing the women's interests declined to comment on whether they would testify or send statements to the court. Castro's defense team had no immediate comment Wednesday.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

Many horrific details of the women's ordeal had already emerged, 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.

Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced that woman on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. That day, prosecutors say, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to prohibit Castro from ever seeing his daughter, now 6.

McGinty says experts also will discuss the Stockholm syndrome to explain how Castro was able to keep the women captive for so long. The syndrome describes situations in which hostages and victims of abduction begin to sympathize with their captors and even defend them. It was named for a 1973 bank hostage situation in Stockholm, Sweden.

Castro so terrified the women that the day they were rescued, two of them were initially afraid to emerge even with five police officers in the house, McGinty said. When they did, they clung to police so tightly the officers couldn't use their flashlights, he said.

"That told me what fear this man put into these women and how much courage it took to survive this ordeal," McGinty said.

He also referred to the "mental and physical bond and barrier" that the first woman who escaped, Amanda Berry, had the courage to break.

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 erected around her house. The third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

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