by Jennifer Lindgren, WKYC-TV, Cleveland
CLEVELAND -- Demolition has begun on the Cleveland house where three women were held captive and raped over a decade.
The house is being 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.
One of the women imprisoned there, Michelle Knight, showed up early Wednesday before the demolition began. She made a brief statement and released some balloons.
A crowd of onlookers clapped as the demolition began.
Castro, who was sentenced to life, plus 1,000 years, without the possibility of parole repeatedly denied during his sentencing that he had tortured Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight after he kidnapped them between 2002 to 2004, holding them captive in his home until Berry managed to escape and alert a neighbor May 6.
Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 charges, including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping, to avoid the death penalty.
The house on Seymour Avenue is not only condemned, it represents the horrors the three survivors faced for 10 years.
"We didn't want some kind of gruesome, macabre shrine, if you will, that would get gawkers and curiosity seekers," said Joseph Frolik with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office.
McGinty "wanted the property to come down and to come down quickly," Frolik said.
The house will be demolished by two local companies for free.
Tentative plans call for the demolition to be completed by the end of this week.
Cuyahoga County Land Bank obtained the deed to the house last week. In addition, the county is working to get the deeds to two homes adjacent to Castro's.
Sources say the other two vacant homes will probably come down in a month, opening up space for landscaping or a community betterment project.
City leaders met Monday to discuss the next step. They are hoping to use the time after the demolition to see what would be the best use of the space for the betterment of Seymour Avenue, Frolik said.
Contributing: Gary Strauss, USA TODAY; the Associated Press