The home of the Cleveland man who held three women captive for more than a decade was leveled Wednesday morning.
The demolition came less than a week after Ariel Castro, 53, was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years without the possibility of parole for kidnapping and torturing Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. Castro pleaded guilty to 937 charges, including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder to avoid the death penalty.
"We didn't want some kind of gruesome, macabre shrine, if you will, that would get gawkers and curiosity seekers," said Joseph Frolik, Director of Communication and Public Policy with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office.
Knight, the longest-held captive, released dozens of yellow balloons at the demolition site to represent children who were abducted and never found. Knight, Berry and DeJesus escaped from Castro on May 6.
"Nobody was there for me when I was missing," said Knight, 32. I want people out there to know, including mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope, their child will come back."
Authorities had originally planned to fund the demolition with the more than $22,000 found in a basement washing machine, but the wrecking company offered to donate its services. The money was offered to the three women, who declined in favor of donating it to the community, according to WEWS-TV.
WKYC-TV reported cheers erupting from a crowd of about 100 people that gathered to watch as Castro's house was torn to the ground.
"This neighborhood has seen better days," said Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald. "A lot of brighter days are coming."
Prosecutors said Castro cried when he signed over the deed to his home as part of a plea deal to Cuyahoga County Land Bank, according to the Los Angeles Times. He mentioned "many happy memories" with the three women there. The demolition process took less than 90 minutes.
Members of Castro's family gathered over the last few days to collect personal items at the house.
"It's sad and hard but it is necessary for us to move on," said Anthony Castro, Ariel's son.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty told WKYC-TV Cuyahoga County has obtained the deeds to the vacant homes adjacent to Castro's, which are expected to be demolished by the end of the month. The County is also trying to acquire the two lots next to those homes.
"He's going to sit in the bowels of prison now the rest of his life, the rest of his days, in fear himself of the other prisoners. It's fitting," McGinty told reporters.