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And when they gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember two girls who vanished years ago, Castro was there too, comforting the mother of one of the missing, a neighbor said.
Ariel Castro was friends with the father of Gina DeJesus, one of the missing women, and helped search for her after she disappeared, said Khalid Samad, a friend of the family. He also performed music at a fundraiser held in her honor, Samad said.
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There's also this bizarre wrinkle from a piece at Clevescene.com.
Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, as sources put it, were close with the Castro family. Emily and Arlene Castro were similar in age to the girls, and they often hung out in the neighborhood.
"These kids all knew each other," private investigator Chris Giannini says. During and after the girls' disappearances, in 2004, he employed a man named Fernando Colon - Ariel Castro's ex-wife's husband - as a security site supervisor at a local shopping center and got to know the inner workings of the family fairly well.
Colon had fallen under the suspicions of the FBI during their investigation into DeJesus's whereabouts. By way of marriage, he was somewhat close to the Castro family, and his step-daughters certainly ran in the same circles at the missing teenager. Colon was soon brought in for questioning regarding the disappearances.
But he was cleared following a polygraph test. The man in turn insisted that FBI agents look into Ariel Castro, a man who seemed to attract tumult and disorder throughout his adult life.
"They did not follow up on that," Giannini says. The Cleveland Division of the FBI offered no comment on the matter when contacted by Scene.
It was 2004, still within the first year of DeJesus's disappearance. She, along with Berry and Knight, were still regular fixtures in local conversation. Within the Castro family, however, turmoil was bubbling. As Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight grew up painfully inside Ariel Castro's home, he was fighting to keep the eye of the law far away.
Emily and Arlene Castro, teenagers themselves, did not live with their father. Their mother, Grimilda Figueroa, had married Colon and brought her daughters to live with them over on West 110th Street. Allegations of sexual molestation against Colon soon threatened the stability of the household. Law enforcement once again zeroed in on Fernando Colon, all while Ariel Castro egged them onward. As his daughters continued to accuse Colon of touching them inappropriately - of penetrating them - Ariel Castro began visiting them more frequently and showering them uncharacteristically with gifts. They didn't spend much time at Castro's Seymour Avenue house, though. He ensured that much.
The Castro girls' mother did not believe their mostly frantic allegations. Nor did their older brother, Ariel "Anthony" Castro. Nonetheless, Colon was indicted in late 2004 on 27 criminal charges, including kidnapping and gross sexual imposition, and later offered a light sentence that he couldn't realistically appeal. Ariel Castro had testified against him in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. His wife and Castro's son had testified on his behalf, hoping to clear Colon's name in this increasing confusing tangle of allegations. Colon's wife repeatedly told investigators that there was no credence to any of the charges.