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Thursday, May 9, 2013

On Facebook, Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect Hid Secret Under ‘LOL\'

Ariel Castro, the kidnapping suspect in Cleveland, opened a Facebook account in February, adding 41 friends in the ensuing months. He “liked” a handful of other Facebook pages, including a tourism page for Virginia Beach, another for the musician Rey Ruiz and a page devoted to Chinese Cresteds, described by the American Kennel Club as a “fine-boned, elegant toy dog that craves human companionship.”

None of the posts or photos on his profile hint at the horrifying secret he kept since 2002 in his dilapidated Cleveland home. Nor do they reveal a disturbed mind. In one of his first posts, he sounds downright cheerful, writing: “This morning i woke up to the sound of a chirping cardinal. Yes! come on spring!”

On Wednesday, Mr. Castro, 52, was charged with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape after the dramatic escape on Monday of three women - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michele Knight - held captive since they were abducted between 2002 and 2004. His brothers, Pedro and Onil, were taken into custody at the time of Mr. Castro's arrest but have not been charged in connection with the case. Police said there was no indication at this point that they had known that three women were hidden behind padlocked doors.

As my colleagues have reported, Mr. Castro presented himself to neighbors as a friendly enough man, waving hello and stopping to chat with families on their porches from time to time.

He drove a school bus until last November and played bass in local Latin bands. Neighbors, friends and family members have all expressed shock at the allegations that he was behind the disappearances of the three women.

He created a similar appearance online. On his Facebook page, he presented himself as a highly social user, engaging regularly with people who commented on his posts and frequently adding “lol,” for “laughing out loud.” His updates related mostly to motorcycles, music, family and friends. He shared photos of a guitar he admired and said he had an eye for quality.

On his Facebook page, Ariel Castro often shared photos and posts about music. On his Facebook page, Ariel Castro often shared photos and posts about music.

At 10:53 p.m. on May 1, just a week ago, he posted: “That was a nice rumble that just passed in front of my house, makes me wanna jump and get out and ride! lol.”

A friend commented, “Ride baby ride…lol!!!! hope the weather is nice if u do enjoy.”

He replied, “Like tomorrow… hello?” And then: “I'll try to enjoy, but the question is which bike should i take out….they all run so good, I think i'll give the R1 a rest and jump on the Harley….”

He “liked” more than 100 photos. They included a picture of one of the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings in the hospital with the actor Bradley Cooper at his side, and another of Jennifer Lopez. He also “liked” several photos containing Christian messages that do not fit easily with the events said to have unfolded since 2002, or with the more than 200 pieces of evidence taken from his home since Monday.

He “liked” a photo that read: “It's really nice to wake up in the morning, realizing that God has given me another day to live. Like if you agree!” Another message read, “Like if you need Jesus' help.”

In a recent post, he congratulated his daughter, Arlene, 22, on the birth of her son, writing: “Wishing you a fast recovery. She gave birth to a wonderful baby boy. That makes me Gramps for the fifth time, (2boys 1girl 2boys. Luv you guys!”

Arlene Castro was a classmate and close friend of Gina DeJesus, one of the three women held captive. They were both 14 when Ms. DeJesus vanished in April 2004. As The Lede has reported, Arlene appeared on America's Most Wanted in 2005 to talk about the last time she saw Ms. DeJesus, as they walked home from middle school.

Mr. Castro wrote frequently on the Facebook timelines of his grown children, suggesting that their relationships might have improved since he and his former wife, Grimilda Figueroa, who died last year at age 48, divorced in 1996.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Mr. Castro had physically abused his wife and that he did not have visitation rights with his children after the divorce.

Court records indicate Ariel Castro fought with his former wife, Grimilda Figueroa, over the custody of their children. Figueroa twice suffered a broken nose, as well as broken ribs, a knocked-out tooth, a blood clot on the brain and two dislocated shoulders, according to a 2005 filing in Cuyahoga County Domestic Relations Court. In the filing, her attorney requested that a judge “keep [Castro] from threatening to kill [Figueroa].”

Attorney Robert Ferreri said Figueroa “has full custody with no visitation for [Castro]. Nevertheless, [Castro] frequently abducts daughters and keeps them from their mother.” Figueroa died last year. Ferreri could not be reached. Any record of charges being filed could not be located.

While none of the posts on his Facebook page reveal his views of women, he did share a photo on his timeline that said: “A real women will not use their child as a weapon to hurt the father when the relationship breaks down.”

Mr. Castro added a note: “True that.”

His final post was on May 2, four days before the dramatic escape of the three women and Ms. Berry's 6-year-old child. It read, “Miracles really do happen, God is good. :)”