Future of house where Ohio victims held debated - WFLA News Channel 8

Future of house where Ohio victims held debated

Posted: Updated:
CLEVELAND, OH (WFLA) -

An imposing, 10-foot privacy fence will soon guard the home of Cleveland rape and kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro, with windows and doors boarded shut to keep people out of the place that police say was once meant only to keep people in.

The run-down house has become a two-story piece of evidence in the abduction and imprisonment case of three women, but neighbors who remain shaken by the horrors alleged inside want it torn down and erased from the landscape of Seymour Avenue.

"The girls that was in that house, when they ride by there, if they ever ride by there again, they won't have to see that, to remind them or maybe scare them," said Johnny Wright, 54, who can see the back of the house from his front door. "What they went through, I don't think any human being should ever been through that."

The house and what becomes of it will be a daily talking point for the Seymour community, as city officials deal with the irony of keeping the dreaded site of the women's imprisonment safe while neighbors almost uniformly want it torn down.

The issue isn't a simple one.

First and foremost, it's evidence against Castro, who investigators say kept the women in chains in a basement before eventually allowing them to live under close control upstairs. The 6-year-old daughter of one victim, Amanda Berry, was also freed; DNA tests showed Castro was her father, a dark twist on years of captivity during which Castro is also alleged to have induced multiple miscarriages in one of the women by repeatedly punching her belly.

The nondescript white house with a red-and-white tile roof sits on a street of other boarded-up houses, victims of the foreclosure crisis which hit the city hard. The house has thousands of dollars in unpaid tax liens, which would have to be sorted out as the city attempts to control the property. County records show it was built in 1890 and updated in 1950. Forty-two years later, Castro bought it for $12,000.

Workers over the weekend began boarding up windows and doors and erecting a metal fence around the house.

The plywood and fence have a two-fold purpose, said Councilman Brian Cummins: preserving the scene as evidence and protecting it from the threats already circulating on the streets to burn it down in a stroke of vigilante justice.

It's a decision for neighbors and also for the women, said Cummins, whose ward encompasses the property and who is in close contact with police and city officials about the situation.

"The issue is how do we respect the wishes of the survivors in this case and it's too premature to know what their wishes would be," Cummins said Saturday.

There's precedent for tearing down scenes of terrible crimes.

In 2011, Cleveland tore down a house on the city's east side where 11 women were killed over several years by a serial murderer now on Ohio's death row.

But first it served as evidence against Anthony Sowell: in June 2011, jurors walked through the house wearing face masks to ward off the smell of decay as Sowell's trial got under way.

That house also had to be protected before trial from people furious at Sowell's crime.

As with the Sowell house, both prosecutors and the defense will want Castro's home still standing until the trial ends, said Michael Benza, criminal law professor at Cleveland's Case Western Reserve University.

"The prosecutors are going to want to preserve it so they can take jurors into it to view, and the defense would want it preserved so at least they could do their own investigation," Benza said.

It's unlikely the house would be needed once the trial ends; typically only evidence like weapons or fingerprints are preserved for appeals, he said.

Almost 30 years ago in Chicago, the vacant house where John Wayne Gacy killed at least 33 teenage boys and young men was demolished.

More recently, a panel in Connecticut voted Friday to tear down Sandy Hook Elementary School where 20 first-graders and six educators were gunned down in December and build a new school on the same site.

Demolition isn't always the answer. Columbine High School, site of a 1999 school shooting that killed 12 students and a teacher, replaced the library where most of the killing happened with a new library. Chardon High School in northeastern Ohio, where three teens were killed in February, repainted the cafeteria where the shooting happened and put in new tables.

Evidence is crucial in such cases and can be an issue when considering demolition.

Last year in Connecticut, parents of three girls killed in a 2011 Christmas morning fire served notice they planned to sue the city of Stamford, accusing officials of intentionally destroying evidence when they demolished the shoreline home a day after the fire.

Victims' wishes aren't always responded to when it comes to such crime scenes. Cinemark reopened a theater in Aurora, Colo., earlier this year that was the site of 12 people killed in a July shooting.

Relatives of several of the victims rejected an invitation to attend its planned reopening, calling it a "disgusting offer" that came at a terrible time - right after the first Christmas without their loved ones.

Betsy Medina, a nurse's aide who lives behind Castro's house with her three children and her fiance, says tearing it down would spare the three women having to see it again.

Elsie Cintron, who lives three houses down from the house, rejected any idea of keeping it up.

"It'd be a horrifying thing for anybody to go through there thinking something else might happen with the house still standing," she said. "It could be boarded up, locked up - don't mean somebody can't get in from the back and do something else."

Pastor Horst Hoyer, who leads the nearby Immanuel Lutheran Church, said he took comfort in knowing the women would have heard the bells of his nearby church during their captivity. He agrees with neighbors, calling it "a house of shame."

He said the bells of his church, which once rang to call parishioners to worship, are the only good memory he can have of what happened just down the street.

"They served a real purpose," he said Saturday. "I'm sure they must have given those good ladies hope and what day of week it is and what holiday it is, and were the one thing Mr. Castro couldn't stop going into that house - those sounds."

  • 8 On Your SideMore>>

  • RECALL: Fruit at trader Joe's & Costco

    RECALL: Fruit at trader Joe's & Costco

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:20 PM EDT2014-07-22 16:20:35 GMT
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
    A Central California company has issued a voluntary nationwide recall of specific lots of its fresh peaches, plums, nectarines and pluots over concerns of possible listeria contamination.
  • How thieves clone your credit cards

    How thieves clone your credit cards

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 9:15 AM EDT2014-07-22 13:15:02 GMT
    File photoFile photo
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
    Patricia Stack didn't know her debit card number had been stolen until she tried to withdraw money from her bank account. "A couple weeks ago I tried to get money out to pay my power bill and there was nothing in it."
  • How to find out if sinkholes are in your neighborhood

    How to find out if sinkholes are in your neighborhood

    Monday, July 21 2014 5:43 PM EDT2014-07-21 21:43:25 GMT
    A 2004 sinkhole in Deltona was four lanes wide. Associated Press file photoA 2004 sinkhole in Deltona was four lanes wide. Associated Press file photo
    Wondering if there are sinkholes in your neighborhood? Or, are you purchasing a home and want to know about sinkhole activity in the area?
    Wondering if there are sinkholes in your neighborhood? Or, are you purchasing a home and want to know about sinkhole activity in the area?
  • NewsMore>>

  • Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Couple arrested for having sex on Cortez Beach in front of beachgoers

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 1:08 PM EDT2014-07-22 17:08:35 GMT
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
    Bradenton Beach police officers were dispatched to Cortez Beach after a few people called 911 and complained about a couple having sex publicly, right next to a little girl on the beach.
  • Crist ahead in new WFLA poll on governor's race

    Crist ahead in new WFLA poll on governor's race

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 12:00 PM EDT2014-07-22 16:00:35 GMT
    Democrat Charlie Crist jumped to a six-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott in a new News Channel 8 gubernatorial race poll released today. Crist, the former governor running to reclaim his old job, is ahead 46-40, giving Crist the biggest margin registered in the poll since it launched this spring.
    Democrat Charlie Crist jumped to a six-point lead over Gov. Rick Scott in a new News Channel 8 gubernatorial race poll released today. Crist, the former governor running to reclaim his old job, is ahead 46-40, giving Crist the biggest margin registered in the poll since it launched this spring.
  • FOUND: Bradenton girl after argument with dad

    FOUND: Bradenton girl after argument with dad

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 10:27 AM EDT2014-07-22 14:27:44 GMT
    Bianca Unique Agustdottir, 11, had a fight with her dad at the apartment on 53rd Avenue West in Bradenton Monday evening, and disappeared for hours.
    Bianca Unique Agustdottir, 11, had a fight with her dad at the apartment on 53rd Avenue West in Bradenton Monday evening, and disappeared for hours.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Two found dead after welfare check in Hudson

    Two found dead after welfare check in Hudson

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 5:44 AM EDT2014-07-22 09:44:54 GMT
    Pasco deputies are investigating the circumstances of the death of two people in Hudson found on Clark Street late Monday night.
    Pasco deputies are investigating the circumstances of the death of two people in Hudson found on Clark Street late Monday night.
  • 'Faces of Meth' program launched by Sheriff's office

    'Faces of Meth' program launched by Sheriff's office

    Monday, July 21 2014 6:37 PM EDT2014-07-21 22:37:35 GMT
    'Faces of Meth' is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
    'Faces of Meth' is a project of the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office.
  • VIDEO: Cat vs. ham

    VIDEO: Cat vs. ham

    Monday, July 21 2014 5:59 PM EDT2014-07-21 21:59:09 GMT
    YouTube imageYouTube image
    If you have a pet, you've probably fed it a table scrap or two. So, you'll probably appreciate this video of a pudgy cat who has a surprising and humorous response when he's given a scrap of ham.
    If you have a pet, you've probably fed it a table scrap or two. So, you'll probably appreciate this video of a pudgy cat who has a surprising and humorous response when he's given a scrap of ham.
Powered by WorldNow

200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

Telephone: 813.228.8888
Fax: 813.225.2770
Email: news@wfla.com

Can’t find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.