The Broken Families on Both Sides of the Cleveland Kidnappings

As new details emerge about the history of both the perpetrators and the victims of the Cleveland kidnapping tale, two parallel portraits have emerged of troubled families intersecting in a tragedy.

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As new details emerge about the history of both the perpetrators and the victims of the Cleveland kidnapping tale, two parallel portraits have emerged of troubled families intersecting in a tragedy.

As police continue to piece together what happened to Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michele Knight since their kidnapping, the Cleveland Police chief revealed today that authorities have confirmation that there were chains and ropes in the home of Ariel Castro, and that all three women were repeatedly bound, beaten, and raped during their captivity. There have also been distressing warning signs that appear to have been missed at the Castro house, leading many to wonder if the women should have been found much sooner or if local police really did their best to help

Charges are expected to be filed against Ariel Castro and his brothers later today, and his family has come forward... but not to defend the man who appears to be most responsible for the kidnappings. His estranged son, Anthony, has provided many unsettling details about his father's past, including his history of abuse against his own family. The younger Castro says he is shocked by his father's alleged crimes, but now sees that were things he himself missed, like how when visiting his father's house there were doors that were always locked and rooms no one was ever allowed to go into. He even shared photos with the Daily Mail that show there were padlocks on basement doors.

Anthony Castro says he and his three sisters rarely interacted with their father, and the last time he visited he was not allowed inside the house at all. (Although, bizarrely, he and his father did discuss the fate of Amanda Berry.) Neighbors and other friends also confirm that Castro rarely let people near the house or the backyard. His one-time bandmates said he would never stay overnight on road trips or even let them unload equipment into his house.

Ariel Castro's history of violence has come to light through police reports as well, including a domestic violence incident in 2005 (after the three women were already missing.) The mother of Castro's children alleged that over the course of many years he broke her nose, her ribs, dislocated her shoulder, caused a blot clot in her brain, and threatened to kill her and her daughters. (Anthony Castro says he was beaten as well.) Figueroa died last year, so there's little chance of finding evidence that she had knowledge or suspicion of her ex-husband's crimes. He also had a previous domestic violence arrest in 1993, but was never charged.

Castro's two brothers, who were also arrested, have been described as drunks who didn't have jobs or wives and rarely left the house. Ariel Castro lost his job as a school bus driver last year, after repeated incidents of negligence.

Adding to the family's misery, one of Castro's own daughters, Emily, is currently in prison for slashing the throat of her 11-month-old child in a failed murder-suicide attempt. She was diagnosed with manic depression as a teenager and her lawyers argued she was incompetent to stand trial.

Meanwhile, the story of one of the victims, Michele Knight, is also one of sadness and trouble—even before she disappeared in 2002. Her mother, Barbara, says she never gave up hope that Michele was still alive, in part because she believed her daughter was a runaway, not a kidnapping victim. The mother—who moved to Florida and had another daughter have since the disappearance—has still not spoken to or been reunited with Michele.

Barbara Knight had been told that her daughter had run away after Michele's infant child was taken away from her by state authorities. The daughter had dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant and her young child was reportedly abused by a man who was involved with Barbara, leading to the custody fight. The day Michelle disappeared, she missed a court date in her custody hearing, and authorities speculated that the ordeal led her to flee.

Michele was also described as "slow" by a cousin, and the missing person's report filed with the Cleveland Police Department said she had a "mental condition." She also appears to be the one most severely abused inside the Castro house. She reportedly has hearing damage and severe facial injuries due to "years of beatings."

Also confusing the already very sad matter is that other Knight family members were apparently unaware that she was even missing. Michele's brother said he didn't know about the disappearance because his mother kicked him out of the house when he was 14 and they don't speak anymore. The family has no other photos of Michele, aside from one that was given to police when her missing person's report was filed more than a decade ago.

(Click here for complete coverage of the Cleveland kidnappings.)

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.