RSS
Could the Cleveland kidnapping victims have been rescued sooner?
Neighbors say they saw signs that something was wrong at Ariel Castro's home and alerted authorities, but the police have no record of the calls
The Castro brothers await arraignment: Ariel (right) was charged, but his brothers were not.
The Castro brothers await arraignment: Ariel (right) was charged, but his brothers were not. AP Photo/David Duprey
N

ow that some of the initial shock of the Cleveland kidnapping case has dwindled, people are starting to wonder how, as prosecutors allege, Ariel Castro, 52, could have kept Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight trapped in his house for an entire decade without anybody noticing.

According to CNN, Cleveland police say they visited Castro's home twice: Once in response to Castro calling about a fight in the street, and the other time to investigate whether Castro, then a bus driver, had left a child on a school bus.

But those weren't the only times cops were at the house, according to the New York Daily News. The paper reports that neighbor Israel Lugo, 39, claims that he called police in November 2011 when his sister saw a woman with a baby banging on Castro's upstairs window.

"They knocked on the door a good 20 times," Lugo said of the cops who were dispatched. "There was no answer, so they left." Police, though, say they have no record of this incident.

Lugo also told the Daily News that sometime in 2012 four elderly neighbors called police after spotting three women with dog chains and leashes around their necks in Castro's backyard — but police, apparently, never showed up.

On Thursday, The Los Angeles Times reported that Fernando Colon, who dated Castro's ex-girlfriend Grimilda Figueroa, said he told the FBI that they should investigate Castro in 2004 when they questioned Colon himself about Gina DeJesus' disappearance. Colon was presumably questioned because DeJesus was friends with Colon's stepdaughter, Arlene, who is Castro's biological daughter. Yet, the FBI says it has no written record of the interrogation.

"So what's going on?" asks Slate's Amanda Marcotte about the discrepancy between the official record and what Castro's neighbors have been telling reporters. Marcotte's theory:

One possible explanation is that the neighbors are simply caught up in the excitement over a national story unfolding in their backyard, and they're misremembering their pasts because of it. False memories, particularly regarding incredibly emotional situations, are easier to develop than many realize.

My guess is that Castro's neighbors probably saw some weird stuff, but did what most of us tend to do in these circumstances, which is ignore it and figure it's somebody else's problem. Now, I'd wager they're recalling those memories, but they're unintentionally distorting them to make them more dramatic. Or they are misremembering because they wish to feel more proactive than they really were. [Slate]

If Castro's neighbors are in fact remembering events correctly, though, the problem could lie with the dispatchers, who may have failed to enter the calls into the database or listed the wrong address for the complaints, which, after listening to the frenzied, sometimes inaudible audio of Amanda Berry's 911 call, isn't completely unbelievable, notes The Atlantic Cities' Henry Grabar.

While it's unclear whether any of these incidents took place, Castro's history of abuse was well documented. According to the L.A. Times, it started in 1994, when a Cuyahoga County grand jury was set to hear testimony from Castro's ex, Grimilda Figueroa, about Castro's alleged abuse. She failed to show up. A decade later, she testified that Castro had threatened to hurt her if she appeared in court. Figueroa, who died in 2012, also got a restraining order against Castro in 2005 after he allegedly, on multiple occasions, threatened to kill her and her daughters.

Castro, who was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, is being held on $8 million bail.

Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week