Ohio kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro: A musician, homeowner and a 'nice guy'

3:11 PM, May 7, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Ariel Castro's band mate 'in total shock'

Ariel Castro

 

(USA TODAY) -- Ariel Castro, accused with his brothers of kidnapping and holding three women for a decade in a house he owned, is a local musician, a former school bus driver and had been a gregarious part of the community on Cleveland's Seymour Avenue.

Castro's Facebook page lists him as having worked for Grupo Fuego, a "tropical/merengue" band formed in Cleveland in 1999.

However, the band posted a note on Facebook saying that while Castro has been a local bass guitar player for many years, he was never a member of the band.

"For some reason we don't understand, he decided to list our band as an employer on his Facebook page," the posting says. "To set the record straight, he is not a member of Grupo Fuego, and in our 14 year span as a band, he performed as a sub twice in the year 2008."

Miguel Quinones, manager for Grupo Fuego, said the band stopped working with Castro because he was not dependable: "The only thing I remember about him was that he was always late to practice."

Castro also played with Los Boy'z Del Merengue, performing with Roberto Ocasio in 2003. "I knew Castro as a good bass player and never had any contact with him other than that," said Ocasio's former manager, Bev Montie.

Montie currently heads the Roberto Ocasio Foundation, which conducts music camps for kids.

"We're all horrified to think of all this, especially with our situation with children," she said. "But Castro was never part of any children's program we conducted."

In 2004, officers went to the Seymour Avenue home after Castro, then a school bus driver, left a child unattended on a bus, Safety Director Martin Flask said Tuesday. No one answered the door, and at some point officers talked to Castro and determined there was no criminal intent involving the bus incident, Flask said.

Records show that Castro was arrested for domestic violence in 1993, but that a grand jury declined to indict him.

Castro, 52, owned the Seymour Avenue home. Records show the house was in foreclosure because Castro owed thousands in real estate taxes. Cleveland.com reports that Castro bought the house in 1992 for $12,000 from Edwin and Antonia Castro; it's not clear if Ariel Castro is related to the couple.

Juan Perez told Cleveland's NewsChannel5 that he grew up two houses down from the Seymour Avenue home and has known Castro since Perez was 5 or 6 years old.

Perez told the TV station that almost everyone on the block knew Castro.

"He was a nice guy, he would come around and say hi. He gave the kids rides up and down the street on his four-wheeler," Perez said. "He asked me if I wanted a ride. .. He seemed like he was a good guy to the kids that were here. ... I didn't think anything of it."

Perez said Castro was not shy about attending backyard parties or barbecues. Perez also told NewsChannel5 he would see a bus parked outside of 2207 Seymour Ave., but that later on, he began to think Castro owned another property.

Perez described Castro as stopping at the home sometimes 10 minutes or an hour at a time.

"Now it's like, red flag, red flag, red flag, somebody should've said something," he said.

Perez told NewsChannel5 there's a lesson to learned.

"I'm not the only one on the block that feels ashamed to know that we didn't notice anything," Perez told the TV station. "I work at a school, I work with kids. ... I have a heavy heart right now."

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