What Is Ariel Castro Home's Fate? For Now, Legal Limbo
The house at 2207 Seymour Ave. was home to a decade of dark secrets that has added it to a map of crime scenes that attract curiosity seekers to the likes of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum and the Helter Skelter Tour.
Cleveland neighbors may hope to see the house burned down, but it will likely be in limbo while the owner, Ariel Castro, is on trial for allegedly kidnapping and assaulting Amanda Marie Berry, Georgina Lynn DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
"It is too early to tell right now how long it will take before we are able to demolish it, but that is what our hope is," Cleveland City Councilman Brian Cummins told MSNBC. People had been threatening to burn down the house, he said, so the police erected a 10-foot chain link fence to protect the evidence.
Until then, neighbors should be prepared for onlookers, said Scott Michaels, who for six years has been running a Helter Skelter tour in Los Angeles. "It's gonna happen," Michaels said.
People are enthralled by the opportunity "to actually sit there and imagine what happened in that house," Michaels said of his Charles Manson tour. "It's actually quite moving sometimes."
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Michaels' tour, which he said is respectful to residents who currently live at the homes where deaths occurred, even visits locations where crime scenes have been torn down. He laments the loss of the house where actress Sharon Tate was killed by Manson's minions. "It's heartbreaking to a historian," said Michaels, who compared it to the also-razed Ambassador Hotel, where Sen. Robert Kennedy was assassinated.
At some crime scenes, the house just goes on as a private residence for years. Ohio is among the states that do not require sellers to disclose to buyers whether a notorious crime was committed on the premises, according to Dennis Ginty, a spokesman for the state's Department of Commerce. However, it does not prohibit buyers from suing if the seller doesn't inform them about past issues at the residence, he said in an email to NBC News.
Even before the three women were found May 6, the Cleveland house was headed to court, though the owner did not know it yet. On May 3, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office started foreclosure proceedings against Castro, who had not paid his property taxes since 2010. But due to a backlog of cases, the paperwork still has not been entered into the system.
He owes $2,501 in a "complaint for the collection of delinquent taxes, assessment, penalties and interest, foreclosure and equitable relief," according to a spokesman in the prosecutor's office.
Castro is named on the filing along with potential lienholders Edwin and Antonia Castro, who at the time of a 1992 filing were still owed $5,000 by Ariel Castro. An "unidentified spouse" is also listed on the complaint in case there is a spouse as yet unknown to the county. It was not known whether the lienholders are related to Castro.
The sites of other notorious crime scenes are often torn down or renovated to remove distinguishing characteristics. This past Friday, a task force recommended officials in Newtown, Conn., tear down and replace Sandy Hook Elementary School, where a gunman in December killed 20 children and six adults before taking his own life.
In Chicago, the home of John Wayne Gacy was torn down after he was convicted of the sexual assault and murder of 33 young men. He was executed for the crimes in 1994, but only last week Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart announced the end to another chapter in the case. In response to questions that Gacy may have buried more bodies at the apartment complex where he worked in the 1970s, investigators recently used ground penetrating radar, infrared thermographic imaging and victim-recovery canines to search for hidden graves. Nothing was found.
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Interest in some notorious cases endure for decades. Just ask Lee-ann Wilber, the manager of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River, Mass. The museum is in the house where Andrew and Abby Borden were axed to death in 1892. Andrew's daughter Lizzie was acquitted of the crime, but the idea of her guilt was perpetuated in pop culture. Generations later, schoolchildren knew about Lizzie Borden, who "gave her mother 40 whacks; when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41."
The Borden house remained a private home until it was turned into a museum and bed and breakfast in 1996. Wilber and her partner bought it nine years ago and they annually host 15,000 to 20,000 visitors from all over the world.
"We don't focus just on the crime, but also the time period. The tour isn't all blood and gore. It's historical," she said.
Some neighbors still wish the Lizzie Borden case would just go away, Wilber said. One older gentleman told her he remembered the case from when he was a boy. "We didn't talk about it," Wilber said he told her. "The murders didn't happen."
Yet the onlookers keep coming, even for weddings in the house. "People are just looking for something out of the ordinary, something that will make an impression," Wilber said.