Cleveland resident Ariel Castro charged with kidnapping and raping

CLEVELAND (REUTERS) - Cleveland resident Ariel Castro was charged on Wednesday with raping and kidnapping three women who were rescued on Monday after nearly a decade in captivity at his house.

Castro's two brothers Pedro and Onil, originally arrested in the case, were not charged, said prosecutor Victor Perez at a news conference.

The charges came as two of the newly freed victims, Amanda Berry, now 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, had family homecomings after vanishing separately from their Cleveland neighbourhood nearly a decade ago.

Castro, 52, faces four counts of kidnapping relating to Ms Berry, Ms DeJesus, Ms Michelle Knight, and Berry's 6-year-old daughter who was conceived and born during her mother's captivity, authorities said.

Ms Knight, 32, was in a Cleveland hospital on Wednesday where a spokesman said she was in good condition.

The rape charges against Castro relate to Ms Berry, Ms DeJesus and Ms Knight, the prosecutor said.

He would be arraigned on Thursday morning, the prosecutor said.

There was no evidence Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50, were involved, the prosecutor said.

Neither Ms Berry nor Ms DeJesus spoke publicly as they were hustled inside their family's homes, and relatives emerged instead to speak to the waiting crowds of spectators and media.

Ms Berry and her daughter could be seen from an aerial television camera arriving in a convoy of vehicles at her sister's house and going in the back door.

Ms DeJesus was rushed into the home she had not seen in nine years, clenched in a tight embrace by her sister Mayra. Ms DeJesus hid her face in a yellow hooded sweat-shirt but raised her hand in a thumbs-up sign to the crowd that was chanting "Gina. Gina." Her mother Nancy DeJesus came outside after a little while.

"I want to thank everybody that believed," she said. "Even the ones that doubted, I still want to thank them the most because they're the ones that made me stronger, the ones that made me feel the most that my daughter was out there."

Police released some details about the search of the house where the women had been held, including the discovery of chains and ropes police said had been used to tie up the victims.

Police said no human remains had been found.

Before Monday evening, Ms Berry had last been seen leaving her job at a fast-food restaurant the day before her 17th birthday in April 2003. Her disappearance as a teenager was widely publicised in the local media.

She escaped from the Castro house with the assistance of a neighbour who heard her screaming and helped her call police.

Ms DeJesus vanished while walking home from school at age 14 in 2004, and Ms Knight, 32, was 20 when she disappeared in 2002.

Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation were searching through the house where the women were believed to have been held since vanishing, Police Chief Michael McGrath said.

Born in Puerto Rico, Ariel Castro played bass in Latin music bands in the area.

Records show he was divorced more than a decade ago and his ex-wife had since died. He is known to have at least one adult daughter and son.

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