|Yes, the school district in Cleveland let him drive a bus|
This week’s kidnapping/imprisonment/rape case in Cleveland drew a number of comparisons to the Anthony Sowell debacle in 2009, mostly from parties way too eager to jump on the cops for a lack of responsiveness. Again.
I received a call from the Canadian Broadcast Corp., asking me if I saw any parallels. It was a good chance to pimp my book, Nobody’s Women, but I had to be honest and tell them there was no real comparison. As usual, the news is looking for someone to say something and moves on when chosen subjects refute their assertions.
Sowell beat and killed grown women, victims whom he knew few would miss initially. He was right; even when family members reported them missing, the cops played it off, as many of them had disappeared before.
Ariel Castro, the man charged with the kidnapping and rape of three women, took two of his victims as teenagers and the other as a 20-year-old. None had police records. And cops did what they could to find them, although one of the three, Michelle Knight, was removed from the FBI’s missing persons list 15 months after her 2002 abduction. The case of DeJesus appeared on America’s Most Wanted in 2005. (warning: commercial precedes)
I spent the week in Cleveland working the story for The Daily Beast, an excellent site with good skills backing up its reporters.
The first day I reported on Castro’s dismal driving record, which included the state attempting to take his license. This isn’t much of a deal until you realize that he was a school bus driver for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. When I called the district to ask just what a driver has to do be fired, it didn’t return my call. Here’s the story. As it turns out, Castro lost his job last November for a series of on-the-job infractions, including abandoning a bus and walking home during duty. After losing his job, he began to spiral downward, going into default on his property taxes and showing signs of stress. One person told me that he would see Castro in the neighborhood in recent months with bruises and scratches on his arms. I never wrote that up because I didn’t feel it credible. But what it that were true? Was the firing the start of his demise? What if the district had fired him earlier for his poor driving as a civilian? Would he have begun that spiral earlier?
The second piece was an outline of the three Castro brothers and the mother at the center of it. The three were all arrested initially, then the other two, Pedro and Onil, were released without charges.
Finally, I spoke with a long time enemy of Castro’s, Doug Parker, his former neighbor who had plenty to share of encounters over the years. The story outlines some strange behavior by Castro, including why-didn’t-I-see-it? kind of moments.
“I thought, Things make a lot more sense now,” Parker says—the locks, the nasty comments to his wife, even the loud music, which would start all of a sudden at any time of day, play for 10 minutes, then stop.
Parker also told me something a little unsettling, and while I have no doubt as to his sincerity, I didn’t fold it in. As I read the notes this morning from our hour-long chat this week, I’m wondering if I should have.
Shortly after moving from his home next door to Castro in 1996, Parker’s wife saw Castro driving on their street, Governor. He was a block or so down, and she could see from her porch as he stopped at each house, got out and looked, and got back in and slowly drove to the next house.
“She wondered to me the other day after this happened if he wasn’t looking for our own daughter to abduct her,” Parker said. The two had bad blood and the ultimate revenge would be to take away his daughter. In fact, Parker lives in the middle of the area from which all three of Castro’s victims were taken. But Parker’s daughter would have been eight years old, younger than the age of Castro’s captives at the time of their abduction, one of the reasons such speculation is a bit far fetched.
One more thought I had after talking with Parker, the best and most illuminating conversation among dozens I had this week. Castro’s house was locked down even before the girls were captured. Is it possible that he took more than we know? I’m very much a what-you-see person, so I figure if this prompted such a thought, either I’m falling into a sick sort of cop mode where everything is suspicious or it’s worth considering.