The three women who endured years of isolation, sexual assaults, beatings and starvation as prisoners of a Cleveland school bus driver documented their ordeal in diaries kept during their captivity in his house, prosecutors revealed on Wednesday.
Ariel Castro, 53, was scheduled to be sentenced Thursday. He pleaded guilty last week to multiple counts of rape and kidnapping. He also pleaded guilty to murder for forcing one of the young women, Michelle Knight, to miscarry a pregnancy by starving and beating her.
According to a pre-sentencing report released on Wednesday, the three women – Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23 – “did everything humanly possible to retain a sense of normalcy” and were able to mark time by keeping diaries.
“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,” prosecutors said.
The three victims all disappeared from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004 and were discovered in May after neighbors heard cries for help from Berry coming from Castro’s home on Seymour Avenue.
Berry and her 6-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro, escaped through the front door of Castro’s rundown home and alerted police about the two other women who were being held on the second floor.
After months of negotiations with prosecutors, Castro accepted a plea deal that calls for a sentence of life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years. The agreement spared Castro the possibility of facing the death sentence if he were convicted at trial, and spared his victims the prospect of making repeated court appearances.
The prosecutors’ office said Castro and his lawyers will be allowed an opportunity to speak before government attorneys present information “relevant to sentencing,” which may include statements by the victims or a representative for the victims.
Prosecutors say that while Castro has admitted to some of the offenses with which he was charged, he has never expressed any remorse and claimed that sex with Knight was consensual, even after admitting he lured her into his car with the promise of a ride and a puppy for her son.
Berry and DeJesus also were coaxed into his car with a promise of a ride. DeJesus had been a friend of Castro’s daughter.
In their report, prosecutors painted a grim picture of the conditions endured by the three women in Castro’s house, where they were long kept isolated from each other, received only one meal a day, one or two showers a week and had to use small plastic toilets that were not often emptied.
The three survivors told investigators Castro controlled every aspect of their lives, including the use of sexual abuse and confinement in the cold basement and hot attic as punishment and threats on their lives with a gun. He also told the women that he had other victims, and that “some of them made it home, but that others had not,” prosecutors said.
The opinion of a psychiatrist attached to the prosecutors’ report said that despite the abuse they suffered, the women “acted with fortitude, courage and grace.”