CLEVELAND (USA TODAY) — Demolition crews began tearing down Ariel Castro’s former house of horror Wednesday after one of three young women held captive there for 11 years brought a bundle of yellow balloons in memory of other missing children.
Cheers erupted on Seymour Avenue as the heavy equipment clawed away part of the roof and walls of the rundown house where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were rescued after years of living in chains.
Castro, 53, pleaded guilty last month to 937 charges including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder charges in connection with the abduction of the three young women, who were rescued May 6. Knight, who also spoke at Castro’s sentencing in a moving condemnation of his crimes, made a brief statement and asked God to grant strength to those still missing and told their families to have hope. She says the yellow balloons represented those still out there waiting to be found.
The demolition of the house comes less than a week after Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
Over the last few days, Castro’s family members have taken personal items from the home.
Prosecutors say that Castro, who claimed he was not mean to the women during the captivity, cried when he signed over the house deed and mentioned his “many happy memories” there with the women.
DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared, Berry was 16, and Knight was 21. They were rescued after Berry broke free from her room and began shouting from the door, alerting neighbors.
Joseph Frolik with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office said officials decided to tear down the house because “we didn’t want some kind of gruesome, macabre shrine, if you will, that would get gawkers and curiosity seekers.”
Prosecutor Tim McGinty “wanted the property to come down and to come down quickly,” Frolik said.
The house is being demolished at no cost by two local companies who expect to complete their work by the end of this week.
Cuyahoga County Land Bank obtained the deed to the house last week. In addition, the county is working to get the deeds to two homes adjacent to Castro’s.
Sources say the other two vacant homes will probably come down in a month, opening up space for landscaping or a community betterment project.
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