The Cleveland kidnapping story of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight couldn't be more tragic and bizarre. Emerging details are still largely rumor, but it sounds like all three women were forced into unthinkably awful positions, even being spotted naked and on all fours by a neighbor at one point. Meanwhile, the alleged kidnappers, Ariel, Pedro, and Onil Castro, all brothers, taunted investigators and reporters with comments.
In fact, the entire Castro family had bizarre connections to the girls. Arlene Castro, daughter of Ariel Castro (the man who owned the home where the girls were found), actually commented on the America's Most Wanted episode about the disappearance of DeJesus and said she was best friends with Gina.
See video below:
It's chilling to think that Castro may have targeted DeJesus because she knew his daughter. But that isn't the only connection. Over the years, the Castro family would intersect with the missing persons case time and again.
Anthony Castro, the son of Ariel Castro, had written about the changes in the neighborhood after Gina disappeared as part of a class assignment at Bowling Green State University. The article said:
Since April 2, 2004, the day 14-year-old Gina DeJesus was last seen on her way home from Wilbur Wright Middle School, neighborhood residents have been taken by an overwhelming need for caution. Parents are more strictly enforcing curfews, encouraging their children to walk in groups, or driving them to and from school when they had previously walked alone.
"You can tell the difference," DeJesus’ mother, Nancy Ruiz said. "People are watching out for each other’s kids. It’s a shame that a tragedy had to happen for me to really know my neighbors. Bless their hearts, they’ve been great."
Of course the great irony here is that even the Castro family themselves missed what was under their nose. Let alone the neighbors who ignored it for years or the cops who ignored leads. It's just unimaginable how many opportunities were lost to rescue these girls from this horrifying captivity.
Perhaps the most shocking of all the connections was the comment from Pedro Castro just last year while crews were searching a local area for Berry's body. "It's a waste of money," Pedro tells the camera. At the time it seemed like a bitter old man ranting and raving, but now it's chilling. See below:
It's amazing that the answer was right there, that members of the very community from which these girls were stolen were also possibly responsible for their captivity.
Perhaps most disturbing, Ariel Castro may have even comforted DeJesus' mother at a vigil and helped hand out fliers, all when he knew where she was. Just beyond sick.
In so many ways, this case makes you wonder if you know your neighbors. Having just moved to a new town, I know there is a great deal I don't know about my neighbors, but even so, I expect them to be decent people. For years, the Castros floated in and out of the spotlight in regards to this case and these men knew what they had done.
It's just chilling.
Do you feel like you know your neighbors?