Last July, acting on a bogus tip from a convict, police in Cleveland dug up an empty lot, looking for Amanda Berry, a teenaged girl who had vanished in 2003.
They found nothing and a local resident was dismissive of their efforts. “That’s a waste of money,” Pedro Castro told Fox News, as he sat on his porch.
Today, Mr. Castro, 54, is in custody, along with his brothers Ariel, 52, and Onil, 50, as suspects in a lurid kidnapping case that ended happily when three young women were found Monday night.
The three were found after nearly a decade of captivity in Ariel’s home, three blocks from where the police had been digging without success for Ms. Berry’s body.
As details of the sensational case emerged, it appeared the Castros knew at least one of the victims, who was reportedly best friend with a daughter of Ariel Castro.
Gina DeJesus was 14 and a student at Wilbur Wright Middle School when she vanished on the afternoon of April 2, 2004.
The last person who saw her was a classmate and her best friend, Arlene Castro, according to a 2005 report on the disappearance which aired on Fox TV’s America’s Most Wanted.
Ms. Castro told the 2005 program that her friend gave her 50 cents to call her mother and ask if she could to go over to Ms. DeJesus’ house.
Ms. Castro’s mother wouldn’t give permission so the two teenagers parted ways.
Because she had paid for her friend’s payphone call, Ms. DeJesus couldn’t afford her bus fare and had to walk home. She was last seen at the corner West 105th Street and Lorain Avenue.
Her disappearance made headlines because, almost a year before, another Cleveland teen, Ms. Berry, went missing 10 blocks away.
Ms. Berry had been working at a Burger King at the corner of West 110th Street and Lorain. On April 21, 2003, she was heading home for her birthday celebration because she was going to turn 17 the next day. She never showed up.
For nearly a decade, Ms. DeJesus, Ms. Berry and another missing young woman, Michele Knight, are alleged to have been held at Ariel Castro’s house, at 2207 Seymour Avenue.
During that time, Mr. Castro, a school bus driver, came to the attention of police in January 2004 following a complaint that he had left a child in his bus. Officers knocked on his door but no one answered so they left. He was later questioned about the incident but not charged.
In August of 2005, his wife, Grimilda Figueroa, complained of domestic violence and went to court to obtain a protection order. The order was dismissed two months later.
Just a month ago, on April 11 on his Facebook page, Ariel Castro had announced that he was a grandfather for the fifth time: “Congrats to my Rosie Arlene … She gave birth to a wonderful baby boy … Luv you guys!”
Ms. Castro now lives in Indiana, where she is an aspiring singer.
Another Castro daughter, Emily, also made the news, in 2008, when she received a 25-year sentence for slashing the throat of her 11-month-old daughter. Her brother, Ariel Anthony, told the court that she was mentally ill.
In November 2007, Ariel Anthony, was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University when he wrote an article for the Cleveland Plain Press on Ms. DeJesus’ disappearance.
Ariel Anthony told WKYC-TV he didn’t know what to make of the arrest of his father and uncles. “This is beyond comprehension … I’m truly stunned right now,”