AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
In Cleveland today, Ariel Castro appeared in court; his hands bound, head lowered. He is accused of kidnapping three women and a child, and of raping the three women who escaped Monday from the house where they'd been held for roughly a decade. A judge set bond at $8 million, and an Ohio prosecutor says he will pursue additional charges and may seek the death penalty. NPR's Cheryl Corley reports from Cleveland.
CHERYL CORLEY, BYLINE: The top county prosecutor in Cleveland, Tim McGinty, called Ariel Castro a child kidnapper who operated what he called a torture chamber and private prison, in the heart of Cleveland. McGinty says he'll present the case to a grand jury. And he promised that Ariel Castro would face more charges for rape, kidnapping, assault and attempted murders.
TIM MCGINTY: And each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies - that the offender perpetuated against the hostages during this decade-long ordeal.
CORLEY: And McGinty says he will definitely consider the death penalty as an option. He says he may seek it against Castro because the sentence applies to those who commit aggravated murder during a kidnapping.
Earlier in the day, Castro appeared for a very brief court hearing - just a little over three minutes. He stood with his back to a room jammed with reporters, TV cameras, and photographers whose clicking shutters threatened to drown out the meeting. Assistant prosecutor Brian Murphy said the charges leveled against Castro - four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape - came as a result of, quote, "deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus from Cleveland's West Side streets."
BRIAN MURPHY: Today, the situation is turned, Your Honor. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner. The women are free to resume their lives that were interrupte,d and also with the promise and the hope that justice will be served.
CORLEY: Murphy sought a $5 million bond. The judge set it at $8 million; a breakdown of $2 million for each of the victims, including Amanda Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was born in captivity.
Kathleen DeMertz, a public defender representing Castro today, said the $8 million for the unemployed school bus driver means he'll remain in jail. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The public defender was incorrectly identified. She is Kathleen DeMetz, not DeMertz.] She spoke with him for about a half- hour before the hearing, but wouldn't say whether he talked about the case.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
KATHLEEN DEMETZ: I really can't comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Can you talk about his state of mind?
DEMETZ: I really can't comment on that.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Is he OK? Is he doing well?
DEMETZ: I really don't want to comment on his demeanor, or what he said, or his condition right now.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: What does it mean to have...
CORLEY: DeMetz did say that Castro was in the city jail's medical unit.
DEMETZ: Whenever there's a sensitive case such as this, or a case of a sexual nature, or there is any risk of - any reason to put them in protective custody, that's where they are held.
CORLEY: A police report that NPR and other media outlets saw yesterday detailed some of what the three women told police occurred during their captivity, after Amanda Berry escaped from the house and made a 911 emergency phone call.
Today, the Cleveland police sent out a notice to administrative units, saying disclosure of such information may jeopardize the criminal investigation of Castro. Cleveland's mayor, Frank Jackson, also told reporters that he had ordered Cleveland's public safety director to tell his employees to cease and desist the release of any information outside of standard City Hall protocol.
MAYOR FRANK JACKSON: This is not for the sake of concealing any information. It is, however, to demonstrate compassion for the victims and their families, and to ensure the credibility of our investigative process; and to allow us to arrive at a just conclusion in this very difficult situation.
CORLEY: As the investigation of this case continues, two of Ariel Castro's brothers, who were originally arrested with him, also appeared in court today. Defense attorney DeMetz said the charges they faced were minor misdemeanors, and they are no longer involved in their brother's very deep troubles. Cheryl Corley, NPR News, Cleveland.
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