CLEVELAND (AP) — Years before when authorities say Ariel Castro kidnapped two teenage girls and a young woman and held them captive in his basement, he terrorized the mother of his children, viciously beating her and locking her inside the house, her relatives said Thursday.
In interviews with The Associated Press, relatives of Grimilda Figueroa, who died after a long illness last year, described Castro as a "monster" who abused her in demented ways. He once shoved her into a cardboard box and closed the flaps over her head, said Elida Caraballo, her sister.
"He told her, 'You stay there until I tell you to get out,'" recalled Caraballo, who cried as she recalled her late sister's torment. "That's when I got scared and I ran downstairs to get my parents."
Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, was arrested Monday, when one of the three women, Amanda Berry, broke out of his Cleveland house and called 911 while he was away. Police found the two other women inside. The women had vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Castro has been charged with rape and kidnapping. During his brief arraignment Thursday, he tried to hide his face and didn't speak or enter a plea. A public defender assigned to represent him didn't comment on his guilt or innocence.
Some relatives of Castro have said they were shocked by the allegations against him. An uncle, Julio Castro, said it's been difficult news to absorb.
"Of course we have taken it hard," he said. "We only knew one Ariel, my sweet nephew. He was a sweet, happy person, a musician. We didn't have the slightest idea of the second person in him."
But relatives of Figueroa, Ariel Castro's former common-law wife, said that Castro savagely beat her over the years, shoving her down a flight of stairs, breaking her nose and dislocating her shoulder, among other injuries.