Gina DeJesus was found Monday with two other young women who were held in captivity for nearly a decade. They were found in an old boarded-up house in Cleveland, Ohio, only about four miles away from where they vanished.
That house was owned by Ariel Castro, in a mostly Spanish-speaking neighborhood where everyone seemed to know him for driving a school bus, playing in local salsa and merengue bands and giving neighborhood children rides on his motorcycle.
Because his son, Anthony, wrote an article about the missing young women back in 2004, and his daughter Arlene, seemed to be a close friend of Gina’s, it makes one wonder — how much did Castro’s children know about the kidnappings?
Anthony, now 31, is working at a bank and living in Columbus. He was a journalism student at Bowling Green State University in Ohio when he wrote an article about the kidnappings in the Plain Press community newspaper in 2004.
There, he quoted Gina’s mom as saying the neighborhood had become more cautious since the kidnappings.
“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…People are really looking out for my daughter.”
In a recent interview with The Plain Dealer yesterday, he says he is experiencing a “tremendous level of shock.”
“I can express nothing but shame for our family that it involved any one of us,” the soft-spoken Castro said in a brief interview.
“It’s beyond comprehension. It’s just beyond anything that anyone could really dream up…It’s just a nightmare…That I wrote about this nearly 10 years ago — to find out that it is now so close to my family — it’s unspeakable.”
Castro’s daughter, Arlene, was Gina’s classmate in Wilbur Wright Middle School and a close friend. She was also the last person to see Gina before her kidnapping. In an interview with “America’s Most Wanted” in 2005, she said she was walking home with Gina the day she disappeared. Arlene wanted to spend the afternoon at Gina’s house.
“I decided to call my mom and ask her, and so she gave me 50 cents to call my mom, and so my mom said no that I can’t go over her house, and so I told her I couldn’t, and she said, ‘well okay I’ll talk to you later,’ and she just walked.”
Anthony, told London’s Mail Online it was “conceivable” Gina got into Ariel Castro’s car instead of walking home, because she recognized him as the father of her close friend.
‘That’s one of the thoughts that went through my head, because Gina disappeared in broad daylight on a very busy street,” he said. “It’s probably the busiest street on the west side of Cleveland…If she was abducted forcefully, somebody would have seen it.”
He also said he doesn’t know if Gina had ever been to his father’s house before she was abducted, nor if Arlene ever visited her father while Gina was held captive in his house.
He also said in an interview with London’s Daily Mail newspaper that he seldom visits his father, who separated from his mother in the 1990’s, due to the fact that he was a controlling man who almost beat his mother to death while she was recovering from brain surgery. When he has visited — the last time, two weeks ago – he said he was not allowed inside the house.
“The house was always locked,” Anthony told the newspaper. “There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.”
Anthony’s said, his mother, Grimalda “Nilda” Figueroa moved him and his three sisters out of his father’s house in 1996 after years of violent abuse.
“…We lived in a house where there was domestic violence, and I was beaten as well… we never were really close because of that, and it was also something we never really talked about,” he said.
He says his father asked him, just weeks ago, whether he believed the kidnappings would ever be solved.
“If it’s true that he took [Amanda Berry] captive and forced her into having sex with him and having his child and keeping her hidden and keeping them from sunlight, he really took those girls’ lives,” Anthony said. “He doesn’t deserve to have his own life anymore. He deserves to be behind bars for the rest of her life. I’m just thankful they’re alive.”