A Look Inside Castro’s House of Horrors
CLEVELAND- For the first time since Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus were rescued after more than 10 years in captivity, pictures from the house of horrors they were held in were revealed in court Thursday.
Special Agent Andrew Burke, with the Cleveland Division of the FBI, took the stand during Castro’s sentencing Thursday morning.
Burke became involved in the Berry and DeJesus cases in 2003 and 2004 when they disappeared.
Burke said he was requested to respond to Seymour Avenue on May 6. He met with a detective who advised him that Berry, Knight, DeJesus and a 6-year-old girl were found there.
Burke described the scene on Seymour Avenue, where the women were rescued from.
He said the Cleveland Division of Police had formed a perimeter around the house on that fateful day back in May.
An EMS unit was stationed in front of the house. Inside the ambulance, he immediately recognized Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry.
Burke said he observed the victims to be pale, malnourished, possibly dehydrated. That’s based on seeing them inside the ambulance briefly.
A model of Castro’s home was presented Thursday in court.
Burke said the model was created by the FBI by taking measurements from the scene of Castro’s house using a surveyor’s measurement tool then constructed house to scale.
While on the stand, Burke talked about the conditions the girls were held in.
He said going into Castro’s house was surreal to him. “I’ve been involved in the missing persons investigations for quite some time, so it was difficult experience,” Burke said.
According to Burke, a porch swing was used as an obstacle in case the girls tried to escape.
Pictures showed the front door was wired with alarm clocks to essentially create an alarm system.
A white wire went from the front alarm contraption to the back door, where there was a contact switch to activate the front alarm, Burke said.
On Castro’s first floor there was a heavy curtain, or maybe even a bedspread that separated the kitchen from the living area.
Burke said the dining room had been turned into a bedroom where there was a queen sized mattress.
FBI Special Agent said some of the physical restraints had been removed as evidence when he went through, but his attention was directed to the location of the restraints.
According to Burke, there were reports that Castro would throw money at the victims after sexually abusing them.
He said a chain was also found in Knight and DeJesus’ room.
In their room was also a very thick wooden panel to block a window.
Burke said a hole in the bottom panel was later determined to be a source of ventilation for the room.
Burke said that a bedroom door had also been modified. A handle was on the outside.
There was no doorknob on the inside or outside. There was a slide lock and a bolt so that one could secure the door from the outside.
He said the women told investigators that the limited number of times they were allowed outside during captivity, they had to wear helmets or wigs as a disguise.
FBI Special Agent Burke estimated that there were more than 1,000 photographs taken inside the home by investigators.
One of the pictures shows a letter written by Castro. In it he talked about his conduct and described himself as a sexual predator, Burke confirmed.
Once the girls were rescued, Special Agent Burke said officials arranged for hotel rooms, 24-hour security, transportation to and from, shopping for food and clothing.
In the days that followed, they along with CPD, arranged for the return to their homes.
Burke said Thursday, “All of the victims’ needs in this case are ongoing. I don’t know if anyone could expect anything different. They’ve made dramatic improvements; they are with people that love them. They are getting world class medical, psychological care, but you can’t turn off ten years of sustained, systematic abuse like a light switch.”