CLEVELAND - With several swipes from the arm of an excavator and applause from spectators, a house where three women were held captive and raped for a decade was demolished Wednesday, reduced to rubble in less than an hour and a half.
The demolition had the look of a neighborhood celebration, but some residents have been troubled by guilt for failing to notice tell-tale signs of the women's imprisonment, like windows boarded up from the inside and the kidnapper's practice of keeping visitors from going past the front room.
"It's haunted them, I think, in the sense of how could they not have known," said city Councilman Brian Cummins, who watched the demolition.
An FBI agent watches as the house where three women were held captive and raped for more than a decade is being demolished Wednesday, in Cleveland. Authorities want to make sure the rubble isn't sold online as 'murderabilia,' though no one died there. The house was torn down as part of a deal that spared Ariel Castro a possible death sentence. He was sentenced last week to life in prison plus 1,000 years. Castro apologized but blamed his addiction to pornography.
The home was torn down as part of the plea deal that spared Ariel Castro a possible death sentence and forced him to turn over the deed to the house and pay for it to be razed. He was sentenced last week to life in prison plus 1,000 years.
One of the imprisoned women, Michelle Knight, showed up early Wednesday before the work began. She made a brief statement and released balloons into the air.
"Dear Lord, give the missing people strength and power to know that they are loved," said Knight, who had rosary beads hanging from her neck. "We hear their cry. They are never forgotten in my heart. They are caterpillars, waiting to turn into a butterfly. They are never forgotten, they are loved."
Knight said the array of balloons "represents all the millions of children that were never found and the ones that passed away that were never heard."
There was applause as a relative of one victim represented the three and took the controls of the wrecking crane for the first smash into the top of the front wall. Later, as the house debris disappeared into the basement, church bells rang.
Police kept bystanders back to prevent souvenir hunting for the debris, which was carted off in trucks.