The Cleveland house where Ariel Castro held captive and raped three women for more than a decade has been demolished.
Wednesday’s demolition came as part of a plea deal that saved Castro from a potential death sentence. According to the Associated Press, he was arrested the night of May 6 after one of the women, Amanda Berry, whose child was fathered by Castro, broke down a portion of a door and called out to neighbors for help.
Michelle Knight, who was imprisoned in the house for 11 years along with Berry and Gina DeJesus, was present at the demolition. She distributed yellow balloons to the crowd of people who came to watch. According to the Associated Press and ABC News, Knight, 32, said the cluster of balloons “represents all the millions of children that were never found and the ones that passed away that were never heard.”
DeJesus, 23, and Berry, 27, did not attend the demolition, but DeJesus’ aunt, Peggy Arida, took the inaugural swing at the house with a crane, according to ABC News’ Cleveland affiliate WEWS-TV. She said she did it “because I had so much anger inside me. I wanted to do it. It felt great. It felt like a house of horrors coming down.”
According to WEWS-TV, prosecutor Tim McGinty said $22,000 was found in the house and offered to the three women, but they requested it go back to the neighborhood.
The women went missing separately between 2002 and 2004, at the ages of 14, 16 and 20, according to the Associated Press. They had all accepted Castro’s offer of a ride.
Castro was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years by an Ohio judge. During the sentencing, prosecutors showed photos that provided a first look inside the women’s rooms. The room where Berry lived with her child featured stuffed animals and drawings, according to the Associated Press.
Prosecutors said Castro cried when he had to turn over the house, according to the Associated Press and ABC News. They said he referred to his “many happy memories” there with Knight, Berry and DeJesus.
No decision has been made on what will happen to the vacant space, WEWS-TV reported.