The static backdrop of life in a civilized society is one of peace and harmony as well as a reasonable expectation of security. Then that rare occasion takes place when something or someone threatens to jeopardize our safety. It could be something as small as feeling like we’re being followed or being startled by someone who crept up on us quickly and then disappeared.
In these moments, it dawns on us that real human monsters lurk out there—like Ariel Castro (aka “The Monster of Cleveland”). Castro gained worldwide notoriety for the tragic events he inflicted on several women for his own twisted, sadistic pleasure.
Ariel Castro grew up in a rather turbulent home environment. Later, he became a transplant from Puerto Rico to the United States. He was born to Puerto Rican parents, and his family life seemed normal at first.
Then his mother found out that his father had a second wife on the side, with whom he had fathered four children. That was on top of the kids he had with Ariel’s mother. This caused the separation of his parents.
His mother moved to the United States with Ariel—first to Pennsylvania and then to Cleveland, Ohio. There, he remained for the duration of his free life.
Like many serial killers, Castro was subjected to sexual abuse at a young age. He may have become a monster even worse than a serial murderer as he went on to enslave and torture several women. The sexual abuse that allegedly happened to him may have been a factor that contributed to his sadistic tendencies.
When he was only nine years old, Castro was sodomized. That’s when he believes that his compulsive sexual appetite began. As Castro aged, his sexual compulsions and masturbation addiction became worse and led to horrendous activities.
This was more than just speculation. Castro had penned a suicide note that was later found by authorities. It detailed his sexual abuse as well as his transformation into a monster.
The letter had been written in 2004, which shows just how long he had been fighting internal demons and what his life had become. In the note, Castro detailed the constant war within his own mind. He blamed the women he hurt for being kidnapping and rape victims and went on about how he should take his own life.
This note was never supposed to see the light of day. It cannot be written off as a cry for attention because it wasn’t discovered until 2013.
Castro would grow up from that child in Puerto Rico who was sexually assaulted to live an otherwise normal life, aside from his crimes that were uncovered later. Castro lived in Cleveland, where he was an average guy, a beloved member of his community, and a school bus driver.
He was also a man who kept in close contact with his family—so much so that upon his arrest, his brothers were arrested, too. However, they were discovered to be innocent and no charges were filed against them.
Castro had played bass guitar in several bands. Some nights, he had guests come to his house and would entertain them in a living room full of musical equipment. None knew that he was hiding such a dark, macabre, sinister crime scene in that same house. No one had any idea of the monster which lay beneath the mask that was Castro’s outer face and the appearances he kept up for society at large.
Castro was an avid musician in a Latin band. Although he had played bass guitar for several bands, Castro had never held band practices at his home on Seymour Avenue in Cleveland. Castro had invited the band leader’s son to his house once, but the father warned his son to stay away. Instinctively, the band leader knew that he couldn’t trust Castro with his kid.
Later, Castro’s band members reported that they were astonished when his crimes of rape, kidnapping, and torture of sorts were discovered. Despite some misgivings about Castro, everyone had been oblivious to the house of horrors that he was hiding.
From one disturbed family to the next, Castro would prove to have a twisted sense of what the bonds of family truly meant. In 1980, Castro fell in love with a girl named Nilda Figueroa. They had their first child in 1981 and eventually married.
Then Castro changed drastically into an ultra-abusive, controlling individual. The beatings of his wife became worse over time as controlling behavior turned into outright punches and then broken bones.
When Nilda became pregnant with their fifth child, Castro unsuccessfully tried to induce a miscarriage by kicking Nilda down a flight of stairs. She finally worked up the courage to leave her abusive husband. A friend took her in, and Nilda never looked back.
As revealed in court documents in 2005, Castro’s dive into the dark world of sadism and kidnapping started during his marriage to Nilda Figueroa. Authorities later learned that there was more than broken bones and kicks down a flight of stairs.
At some point, Castro decided to chain Nilda like a dog in the locked basement of his Seymour Avenue home. He didn’t allow his wife to go out anywhere at any time.
Castro even went as far as abducting his own daughters and using them as pawns in his sick games to control his wife. He also preyed upon his daughters’ friends, and this is the part of the story where things turned particularly evil.
Unknown to the world at large, Castro went on to kidnap three women and hold them hostage for over a decade. Two of the women, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry, were his daughters’ friends whom he had stalked and preyed upon. DeJesus and Berry went to school with two of Castro’s daughters, and the four children all knew each other.
It all started with the kidnapping of Michelle Knight in 2002. Castro offered her a ride, took her into his home, and forcibly raped her. At that point, Knight was officially the first captive of Castro’s evil, maniacal scheme.
Amanda Berry was abducted on April 21, 2003, and seemed to vanish from the face of the Earth a day before her 17th birthday. As a vulgar demonstration of his depravity, Castro called Berry’s parents one week after her abduction from her own cell phone. He taunted them, letting them know that he was in charge. “I have Mandy,” said Castro.
The FBI and local law enforcement attempted to locate the origin of the cell phone signal, but 2003 technology didn’t permit it. The FBI made it within three blocks of Ariel Castro’s Cleveland home, but they couldn’t pin down the signal any better than that.
This was the beginning of over a decade of kidnapping, torture, and rape that would terrify a nation. Castro kept DeJesus (who was kidnapped in 2004), Berry, and Knight in captivity for about a decade. The women wouldn’t be freed until 2013.
They were raped up to five times daily, and at least two of them were impregnated—several times in Knight’s case. Castro used poison, starvation, and abuse to cause intentional miscarriages. However, Berry did have a daughter who survived.
On a fortuitous day in 2013, Amanda Berry did the unthinkable—she escaped. Castro had left the front door unlocked, although the storm door was secured. Berry banged on the storm door, and neighbors broke the glass so that she could escape. She ran to a neighbor’s house where she dialed 911 and told her story of over a decade of rape, abuse, and torture.
As we mentioned earlier, Berry had become pregnant during her captivity and ended up having a daughter named Jocelyn. Berry tried to raise her daughter the best she could under the circumstances. Castro became slightly lenient with Berry and allowed the child to have toys. He also let Berry out of her chains to tend to Jocelyn’s care.
Slowly over time, the women got more freedom to move throughout the house, though Castro always locked the doors. One day, Berry and Jocelyn were walking through the house and realized that Castro had forgotten to lock the front door—a rare moment that Berry seized. Luckily, neighbors rescued her and the other three captives.
On May 6, 2013, the day of his captives’ escape, Castro was pulled over and arrested by police for his crimes. At this point, investigators searched Castro’s house and found the suicide note he had written almost 10 years earlier. It documented his torments and allowed the police to peer into the mind of one of the most maniacal psychopaths to ever walk the face of the Earth.
In a case that shocked the world, Castro went to trial and was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 1,000 years. However, Castro didn’t serve more than a fraction of that sentence. In a karmic twist of fate, he took his own life and was found hanging by his bedsheets in his prison cell.
The women told their stories to the world and tried to readjust to normal lives. Fortunately, all of them seemed to be in good spirits upon their release. They weren’t going to let life dealing them the most hideous of unfair hands stand in the way of building their futures.
I like to write about the dark and macabre, philosophy, murder, true crime, and history.