Central Florida grandfather of Cleveland kidnapping victim speaks out
Benny Ruiz: stunned, overwhelmed
On Thursday, the man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive for a decade, will go before a judge for the first time since formally being charged.
Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, is facing three counts of rape and four counts of kidnapping. Prosecutors say Castro's brothers, Onil, 50, and Pedro, 54, who were arrested with him Monday, will not be charged.
Meantime, the grandfather of one of the victims, Gina DeJesus, is sharing his relief and joy from his Kissimmee home.
"When I first heard about it, I was stunned," said Benny Ruiz, who is DeJesus' maternal grandfather.
Ruiz has kept a poster of his missing granddaughter hanging in his Kissimmee home for nine years.
Back in 2004, the then 14-year-old vanished while walking home from school in Cleveland. As the years went on, though, Ruiz said the reality set in.
"We figured that she was dead," said Ruiz.
So when DeJesus was found alive on Monday, Ruiz says he was overwhelmed with joy, but that relief was quickly followed by utter disbelief.
"I knew (Castro's) father, his uncle, his grandfather. I knew all the family," said Ruiz.
For 47 years, Ruiz lived in Cleveland, which is home to a small, tight-knit Puerto Rican community. It's the same community that knew Ariel Castro, the man now charged with not only kidnapping DeJesus, but also Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight.
"She was right there," said Ruiz.
Ruiz said two of DeJesus' aunts live on the same street as Castro, just two blocks from where she was being held captive.
Castro also played in a band in the nightclub that Ruiz owned alongside fellow band member Ivan Marrero.
"It surprised everybody because Castro was a nice guy," said Marrero.
Over the past decade, both Marrero and Ruiz have traveled from Kissimmee back to Cleveland and run in to Castro, but never suspected anything was amiss.
"I never saw something strange," said Marrero. "Everything was like normal."
Now that DeJesus is back with her family, Ruiz says he hopes to take his granddaughter on her first trip to Disney World.