Former Reading man, Ariel Castro, arraigned in Cleveland kidnappings, held on $8M bond

Suspect spent part of childhood in Reading in early 1970s

CLEVELAND - Before Ariel Castro became known as the alleged Cleveland abductor, his roots ran deep in Berks County.

Castro, 52, grew up in the early 1970s with his family in Reading. His childhood home was 435 North 2nd St.

"Every single day out here, all the kids played together. We played kick the can when there were still bricks here on the sidewalk," said Joe Gonzalez, who's grandmother lived directly across the street from the Castro family.

Gonzalez can remember playing outside with Castro. His uncle went to school with him, and he immediately recognized his mug shot. On Wednesday night, he sent Joe a text message after putting the pieces together.

"Hey, it's Uncle Louie. You know those idiots in Cleveland that held those girls? They lived across the street from us on 2nd Street," Gonzalez said, as he read the text aloud.

According to the city directory, the Castros lived in Reading in 1970 and 1971. Castro was about 9-years-old at that time.

No one answered Castro's old door Thursday.    

After Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina Dejesus were finally freed, their nightmare gripped the nation. Now, it hits closer to home for Yvett Colon.

"Definitely, I imagine [him walking the streets] and maybe thinking about what he was going to do when he was old, because people like that, for me, are born sick," said Colon, who moved onto North 2nd about three years ago.

Francisco Castro has lived in the city for about 30 years and thinks he may be related to the suspect. He said he was born in the same town in Puerto Rico, and he lost touch with family in Cleveland. Related or not, he said Castro needs to pay.

"That was a terrible crime. I feel sorry for all the families of the people," said Castro.

Castro lived in the home with his parents and two brothers. Pedro and Onil were released from custody Thursday, and they were not charged in this case.

Ariel Castro is being held on $8 million bond.

In the four cases -- one case for each alleged victim -- Castro faces a total of four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. Under state law, any restraint on "the liberty of the other person" can be considered kidnapping, which would allow prosecutors to bring the charge in the case of Berry's child.

Uncut video: Ariel Castro arraignment

"Today, the situation has turned, your honor," Murphy said. "Mr. Castro stands before you as a captive. The women are free to resume their lives that were interrupted."

Castro, handcuffed and wearing a blue jail jumpsuit, looked down through the entire hearing. He did not speak.

An apparent suicide note believed to have been written in 2004 by Castro refers to a relative abusing him in the past, a high-ranking law-enforcement source said Thursday.

Investigators found the note in Castro's home in Cleveland, where police said three kidnapped women were held for years against their will. Prosecutors have charged Castro with kidnapping and rape in the case.

The three women and a child were rescued Monday after, according to a neighbor, screams came from the home. Charles Ramsey and Angel Cordero said they responded to the screaming by helping to kick in a door to help Amanda Berry escape. Berry then called 911, bringing to the home police, who found Georgina "Gina" DeJesus and Michelle Knight, and Berry's 6-year-old daughter inside.

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