The Herald Bulletin

May 21, 2013

Editorial: Cleveland crimes could happen anywhere

— There are things we see and hear in the news that are so shocking that we wonder how they came about and how no one seemed to know what was going on.

Such a case is the Cleveland house of horrors that was recently revealed. A man, Ariel Castro, allegedly kept three women locked up in his house for a decade, repeatedly raping and beating them and forcing them to miscarry if they got pregnant. The three women, Michelle Knight, who was kidnapped first; Amanda Berry, who initiated the escape; and Gina DeJesus, have been reunited with their families, though Knight is still in the hospital, allegedly beaten so hard by Castro that she’s lost her hearing.

These young women had been abducted as teenagers and police had searched for them at the time. DeJesus’ mother told the media just a couple of years ago that her daughter was probably sold to the highest bidder.

There was not quite as dramatic a case here in Anderson a few years ago when it became known that 65-year-old Anna Turner had been beaten and held against her will by Luigi and Louis Amalfitano. Turner’s tormentors were sent to prison and Turner was left trying to get her life back on track.

Most stories like this do not end as happily as for the victims in Cleveland or Anderson. Many end in death, such as Sylvia Likens’ torture and eventual death in Indianapolis in 1965. The details of the Cleveland story — and even Anna Turner’s story — are shocking. The sick creeps who are behind such occurrences are going to face the law and be disposed of. Castro is charged with multiple counts of rape and kidnapping and prosecutors are even talking about the death penalty. In Anderson, Luigi and Louis Amalfitano both got 46 years behind bars.

The justice system works, even in cases as mind numbing as what Castro did.

Still, there is a nagging question about what could’ve been done to prevent the three teenage girls from giving up a decade of their lives to abuse and captivity. Certainly they will never be the same as the carefree young teens they once were. They’ve been altered by a monster, and where was everyone when the monster was carrying out his inhuman crimes?

We live in a country that prizes privacy, property rights and the right to be left alone. All of that worked in Castro’s favor. But there had to be some signals through the years that all was not well and, indeed, there were. When investigators responded to neighbors’ complaints, however, they didn’t go far enough.

We hope this is a lesson for future episodes where police and civil servants respond to a neighbor’s complaint. Dig deeper. Don’t take the homeowners’ word for it. And by all means get a search warrant to check the place out. Neighbors need to be vigilant, too. They are in the best position to see something amiss so that grotesque crimes, such as those revealed in Cleveland, won’t take away a decade of life from someone else.