Cuyahoga County

Ariel Castro Case

Seamless cooperation across jurisdictional lines was critical after three women, each missing for more than a decade, were discovered on the evening May 6, 2013, in a house on Cleveland’s Near West Side.

The escape of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – and the arrest of their captor, Ariel Castro – instantly brought international attention to the city and to Cuyahoga County.

It also tested every component of the criminal justice system. The Seymour Avenue house had to be secured and its every inch analyzed. Castro’s former captives needed emotional support, professional care and privacy. The suspect’s life had to be dissected, but without a hint of sensationalism that might make a fair trial impossible or a guilty verdict unsustainable. Finally, the Prosecutor’s Office had to craft a case powerful enough to justify a sentence commensurate with Castro’s horrific crimes.

Collaboration made it all happen.

Within minutes of the three women’s escape, local, state and federal investigators began working seamlessly to build the case.  

An entire community – from the medical and legal professionals who volunteered their services to average citizens who contributed more than $1.2 million to the Cleveland Courage Fund – united to embrace the victims.

And at the prosecutor’s office, a large team of attorneys and support professionals sifted through mountains of evidence, produced the most comprehensive indictment in Cuyahoga County history and was ready for trial within 90 days of Castro’s arrest.

It never came to that. Facing overwhelming evidence, Castro took a plea that guaranteed he would never leave prison alive. His victims had no need to testify. His home-turned-prison was torn down on August 7 – by private firms donating their services -- to create a new public space.

In just three months and one day, a new gold standard for collaboration and teamwork had been established. The lessons learned are already paying dividends on other cases.

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