Ohio prosecutors have said they plan to seek aggravated murder charges that could carry the death penalty, against the man suspected of imprisoning three women for about a decade.
The charges relate to alleged forced miscarriages suffered by one victim.
Ariel Castro, 52, was arraigned in court earlier for the kidnap and rape of Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23 and Michelle Knight, 32.
Ms Berry escaped on Monday and was able to raise the alarm.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said the murder charges were based on evidence from one of the women held captive in Mr Castro’s house that he had impregnated her, then physically abused and starved her in order to induce miscarriages.
“I fully intend to seek charges for each and every act of sexual violence, rape, each day of kidnapping, every felonious assault, all his attempted murders, and each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies that the offender perpetuated against the hostages during this decade-long ordeal,” Mr McGinty told a news conference.
“My office will also engage in a formal process in which we evaluate to seek charges eligible for the death penalty.
“This child kidnapper operated a torture chamber and private prison in the heart of our city,” he added.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Castro appeared in court in Cleveland, handcuffed and dressed in blue overalls. He did not enter a plea.
He is charged with four counts of kidnapping, covering the three initial abduction victims and Jocelyn, Ms Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was apparently conceived and born in captivity.
The former school bus driver also faces three counts of rape, one against each woman.
Cleveland rescue: The mystery of 2207 Seymour Avenue
Ariel Castro’s house at 2207 Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio, is yet to give up many of its secrets.
What lies inside the run-down clapboard house where Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight are said to have spent their captivity?
The house appears to have been the scene of a double life – as Mr Castro’s home and as a kidnap den where he is alleged to have held three women captive for almost a decade.
The two-storey building stands right in the middle of a tree-lined street in Cleveland’s West Side neighbourhood – a working-class area home to a close-knit community.
Few details have been confirmed about what it contains, but some facts are known.
Mr Castro bought the house in 1992 for $12,000 (£7,750), according to the Cuyahoga County Auditor’s office. In 2012, it was valued at $36,100 (£23,300).
The property currently faces repossession over the non-payment of taxes, with Mr Castro owing some $2,501 (£1,615) in taxes for the period 2010-12.
The property has four bedrooms, a bathroom, a 760sq ft (71sq m) basement, two porches and an attic. There is also a detached garage.
They [the women] had no ability to leave the home or interact with anyone other than each other, the child and the suspect”
US law enforcement official
The continuing investigation and charges of kidnap and rape levelled at Mr Castro centre on what happened to the women while they were in the house.
Ariel Castro’s son, Anthony – who says he visited the house just two weeks ago – told MailOnline that the doors to the basement, the attic and the garage were always padlocked and family members were not allowed to go there.
Anthony Castro described his father as a violent and controlling man, who beat him and nearly killed his mother in the early 1990s.
After years of abuse, his mother decided to move out of the house in 1996, taking him and his three sisters with her, Mr Castro said.
“It’s astonishing to even think… that I was so close to that. That I was physically at the house two weeks ago while that was going on, it’s a lot to grasp,” he said.
Police are yet to release any pictures from the inside of the property, but one law enforcement official has described the conditions there as “abysmal at best”.
“They (the women) had no ability to leave the home or interact with anyone other than each other, the child and the suspect,” the official told the New York Times.
Media reports also suggest that the authorities have discovered chains and tape inside the house allegedly used to restrain the women.
A police report suggests the women were all initially kept chained in the cellar, but eventually allowed to live on the second floor of the house.
One report cites the victims as saying the “big inside door” of the home was usually locked when Mr Castro went out. On Monday, he apparently forgot to lock it as he went to a nearby McDonald’s.
Even so, Amanda Berry was afraid to break open the locked storm door because “she thought Ariel (Castro) was testing her,” said the police report.
Instead, she tried to get the attention of neighbours to help; her screams were heard by Charles Ramsey who lived across the street and came to the rescue.
Police say officers were sent to the house twice, in 2000 and 2004.
In March 2000, Ariel Castro reported a fight on the street – but no arrests were made. In January 2004 police went to the address after Mr Castro, then a school bus driver, reportedly left a child on a bus. No-one appeared to be in the house.
An investigation later found no criminal intent by Mr Castro, police told local news site Cleveland.com.
Rather than celebrating their birthdays, in a bizarre ritual, the captor would apparently give his victims cake to mark their “abduction day”, one victim’s cousin was quoted as telling US media.
In recent years, the kidnapper was occasionally seen walking in the area with a young girl – apparently Jocelyn, whom he fathered with Ms Berry and with whom he also visited relatives, reported the New York Times.
One cousin from Ohio said Mr Castro had visited with a well-presented girl a couple of years ago, whom the suspect had introduced as his granddaughter.
Apparently the suspect had insisted Jocelyn was not told the names of Ms Knight or Ms DeJesus in case she repeated them in public.
- Cleveland kidnappings: Prosecutor to seek murder charges against Ariel Castro (thestar.com)
- Ariel Castro may face death penalty in Ohio kidnap and rape case (express.co.uk)
- Ohio Kidnapper Ariel Castro Could Face Death Penalty, Prosecutor Says (usnews.com)
- Ariel Castro could face death penalty (nydailynews.com)
- Prosecutors seek death penalty for Ohio kidnapper Ariel Castro (standard.co.uk)
- Prosecutor may seek death penalty for Cleveland kidnap, rape suspect Ariel Castro (cbsnews.com)
- Relatives of Ariel Castro say he is a ‘monster’ (globalnews.ca)
- Prosecutor may seek death penalty in US kidnap case – Capital FM Kenya (capitalfm.co.ke)
- Cleveland kidnappings: Citing forced miscarriages, prosecutor to seek murder charges against accused (ndtv.com)
- Ohio man’s ex-relatives say he is a ‘monster’ (sfgate.com)