“How much of the early Cleveland reporting is wrong?” Reuters press critic Jack Shafer tweeted last night. We’re starting to find out.
We’re down to one suspect, not three, in the kidnapping and captivity of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight. And those wild stories from Seymour Avenue neighbors, reported yesterday by out-of-town press, are looking really fishy.
Ariel Castro was charged today with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. But Pedro and Onil Castro, arrested with their brother Monday night, will face no charges in the case.
“There is nothing that leads us to believe that they were involved or had any knowledge of this,” deputy police chief Ed Tomba said at a press conference at Public Hall.
Ariel Castro and the three women have all told police that Pedro and Onil weren’t involved, Tomba said.
So why were they arrested? “They were with their brother. It was an investigative stop. You can only imagine the chaos,” Tomba said.
“We had enough probable cause to bring them into custody,” the deputy chief asserted. But in two days’ investigation, “we found no facts to link them to the crime.”
Instead, the two brothers will appear in court tomorrow because of outstanding misdemeanor warrants in unrelated cases.
Berry, DeJesus and Knight also told police that Ariel Castro only let them out of his Seymour Avenue house twice in 10 years. They never left the property. Instead, he took them to his garage in disguises.
That casts serious doubt on the tales a few Seymour Avenue neighbors told reporters yesterday, that people saw a naked woman or women in restraints in Castro’s back yard and called the cops.
City officials have said they have no record of calls about the house. “Our position has been confirmed by the victims themselves,” safety director Martin Flask said to me today.
Most local news outlets, notably The Plain Dealer, look good today for not publishing the neighbors’ tales. Amid competitive pressure to match bigger news outlets, they trusted their own skepticism.
Police don’t expect to discover any other Castro victims, Tomba added. They questioned the three Castro brothers about Ashley Summers, another young woman who went missing on the West Side years ago, but got no new information. (The fourth kidnapping charge concerns Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was also in the house.)
Tomba said the three women felt they had no chance to escape the house until Monday. “They were not in one room, but they did know each other and know each other [were] there,” he added.
The 5 p.m. press conference reflected the worldwide interest in Berry, DeJesus, and Knight’s escape. About 50 journalists gathered on Public Hall's main auditorium floor. Reporters from CNN, Fox News and the Los Angeles Times lined up with local journalists to ask questions.
I chatted with a reporter for the French newspaper le Parisien, who’s flown in from Paris to report from Seymour Avenue. He says the case reminds Europeans of a kidnapping in France and the Austrian case of Josef Fritzl, who imprisoned his daughter for 24 years.