The house of horrors where Ariel Castro held three women captive for a decade started crumbling to pieces August 7 as workers began demolishing the Cleveland home.
In a symbolic gesture, Peggy Arida, the aunt of Gina DeJesus, took the first hit at the home with a crane, smashing into the roof at around 7:22 a.m. ET.
“She enjoyed the work she said. She’s looking for a job knocking buildings down. Especially this guy’s building. This was one evil guy,” said County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty, who stood outside the home as demolition began.
Michelle Knight, the woman who spoke out at Castro’s sentencing hearing, showed up to the house the morning of the demolition, carrying yellow balloons, which she handed out to neighbors and people on the street.
"I want the people out there to know, including (abductees') mothers, that they can have strength, they can have hope. And their child will come back," Knight told reporters outside the house. "I go from here as being a motivational speaker and let everybody know that they are heard, that they are loved, and that there is hope for everyone."
Castro forfeited the house on Seymour Avenue as part of a plea deal with prosecutors that took the death penalty off the table in exchange for a life sentence, plus 1,000 years in prison.
The goal is to tear the house down and get the property filled in, graded and seeded in a single day, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is supervising the demolition.
During Castro's sentencing hearing, prosecutors showed photos from inside the home and had investigators describe how Castro rigged alarm clocks on his front door as a security system, had chains running through walls, partitioned the house to hide rooms and played loud music to cover any sounds the girls would make.
Castro's friends and family removed personal items from the home a couple days before the demolititon, including musical instruments and photographs. Police said most of the items removed at that time were personal items left over after investigators collected evidence.
Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder, kidnapping and rape. The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Michelle Knight, abducted in 2002; Georgina DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.
Castro is the father of Berry's 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.
Berry also visited the house, collecting pictures drawn by her daughter.
Berry and her daughter escaped from the home with the help of a neighbor on May 6, calling police in her now famous 911 call: "Help me, I am Amanda Berry. I've been kidnapped and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here. I'm free now."
Castro reconfigured the 1,400-square-foot home to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified during the sentencing. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of them home, and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the three hostage.