Few crimes are as disturbing and emotionally taxing as abductions and kidnappings. The confusion, the uncertainty, and anger all take their toll on both the victim and the victim’s family. Not knowing if they’ll ever see the sun, be with their parents or their children, or even lead a normal life ever again. They are often afraid to fight against their captors, who are sadists and evil monsters, capable of inflicting awful damage upon their victims.
Below are three of history’s most disturbing abduction cases:
1. Shasta and Dylan Groene
On the 16th of May 2005, the bodies of Brenda Groene (Shasta and Dylan’s mother), Mark McKenzie (their mother’s boyfriend) and Slade Groene (their older brother) were discovered in their Idaho home. Both Shasta and Dylan, aged 8 and 9 respectively, were reported missing. Searchers spent days combing the surrounding areas, but to no avail.
Seven weeks later, with all hope seemingly lost, Shasta was found in a Denny’s restaurant with the company of Joseph Duncan, her captor. Some of the staff, along with a few customers, recognized Shasta from the news reports a few weeks earlier. They notified the police and positioned themselves carefully to prevent Joseph and Shasta from leaving. The cops came and arrested Joseph and managed to reunite Shasta with her father.
However, Dylan was still missing, and the police were quickly losing hope of finding him alive. What little hope remained was shattered when police found human remains in a secluded area along the Idaho-Montana state border, which were later identified as belonging to Dylan Groene.
In her interview with the police, Shasta revealed details of the horrible and life-changing night when she was snatched from her home. She says she was called into the living room by her mother, and saw Duncan holding a gun in his gloved hands. He tied Brenda’s, Mark’s and Slade’s hands back with nylon zip ties. Duncan took Dylan and Shasta and locked them in a stolen rental car. Shasta recounted how she heard her mother’s and older brother’s screams from inside the house as Duncan apparently beat them to death with a hammer. Duncan then took Dylan and Shasta to individual campsites, where he proceeded to regularly assault and molest them.
Duncan – who even before this incident had a long and violent history of assault and molestation – is currently on death row.
Read more about this story here
2. Amber Hagerman
It was the 13th of January, 1996 when Amber Hagerman was kidnapped in Arlington, Texas. 9 years old at the time, she and her younger brother were riding their bikes around the neighborhood. Her brother went home earlier, leaving her to cycle back on her own. An eyewitness, an old retiree, was quoted saying, “I saw her riding up and down; it was her.” The eyewitness said Amber’s screams were the red flags, and that was when he realized he was witnessing the kidnapping of young Amber Hagerman. He notified the police immediately.
Despite eyewitness reports, the police made little progress in their investigations. They deemed it a ‘crime of opportunity’ – the captor saw Amber playing alone and decided to act then and there. Volunteers and the FBI joined forces and combed the area, but to no avail. Four days after the search party began, a local walking his dog stumbled upon the dead body of Amber Hagerman. Autopsy reports showed that she was sexually molested twice before being killed by her captor, who to this day remains unidentified.
Weeks after the discovery of Amber’s body, a caller on a radio show posed an interesting question:
‘How was this allowed to happen and why didn’t police forces team up with the media to quickly provide information to the public, who could have assisted with locating and saving the missing child?’
This question became the foundation for the initiative known as the AMBER Alert. Officially, it’s an acronym meaning America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Report, but it was named after the tragedy of Amber Hagerman. The silver lining is perhaps the fact that the AMBER Alert initiative has saved hundreds of children not just in America, but all around the world.
To follow updates on the 20th anniversary of her disappearance, read on here
3. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus
All three of these unfortunate women were kidnapped by one Ariel Castro, a Puerto-Rican who had settled in Cleveland with a long history of violence and negligence behind him.
The first unfortunate victim was a 21-year-old Michelle Knight, who on the day of her abduction – 23rd of August 2002 – was scheduled to appear in court to fight for custody of her son. She never showed up, and was assumed to have run away in anger at losing custody. Even after she was reported missing, very few resources were spared for poor Michelle Knight, partly because she was an adult.
Amanda Berry was snatched by Ariel on the night of April 21st, 2003, a day before her 17th birthday. She was thought to have run away until a strange number called her mother’s phone and told her, “I have Amanda. She’s fine and will be coming home in a couple of days”. Ariel reportedly approached Amanda by offering her a ride home after her night shift at Burger King. And that was the last anyone ever heard of her for around 10 years.
Finally, 14-year-old Georgina ‘Gina’ DeJesus was last seen on April 2nd, 2004. Arguably, the circumstances surrounding her kidnapping were the worst, seeing as she was the youngest of the three abducted. What makes it so terrible is that she personally knew Ariel Castro and was good friends with his daughter, Arlene.
Ariel Castro kept all three girls in his Cleveland home, which, according to an interview conducted with Ariel’s son Anthony, was always secured with heavy padlocks. “There were places you could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage.” Castro’s vile actions continued. He would tie up the girls, repeatedly rape them and otherwise physically assault them. He would also give them one meal a day and allow them to shower twice a week at the most. Chained and petrified, these women had no choice but to bend to this monster’s will and dream of one day escaping and see him face justice.
It only got worse. Knight was raped and impregnated many times, but was forced to miscarry each pregnancy when Castro beat her with dumbbells, slam her against the wall, or punch her. In fact, after Castro’s arrest – which we’ll get to in a moment – Knight required facial reconstructive, surgery and lost hearing in one ear due to the damage she sustained at the hands of Castro. Berry, on the other hand, was impregnated and gave birth to her captor’s daughter. She, assisted by Knight, who he threatened to kill if the baby were to die, was forced to have the baby at the house, inside an inflatable baby pool. DeJesus was repeatedly raped but was never impregnated.
Jump to May the 6th, 2013 – the fateful day that Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus will remember forever. When Castro left the house that day, Berry realized that he had forgotten to lock one of the doors from the inside. The outside door was still locked, however. She did not attempt to escape through the outside door as she thought Ariel was testing her, something he had done before. Instead, she screamed for help and managed to make contact with her next door neighbor, a man by the name of Angel Cordero. Cordero did not speak English, and decided to bring the situation to the attention of another neighbor, Charles Ramsey. Together, Ramsey and Cordero managed to kick a hole in the locked door, big enough for Berry and her child to crawl through. Berry then ran into the neighbor’s house and phoned 911.
Police responded and raided Castro’s house and freed the other two victims, apprehending Castro. No less than 977 charges were filed against Ariel Castro, including rape, abduction, assault, attempted murder and intentional induction of miscarriage. He plead guilty to all but 40 of them. That earned him a lifetime inside a jail cell with no possibility of parole.
However, it all came to an end when Castro committed suicide inside his prison cell. He was found hanging from a bedsheet on September the 3rd, 2013, just one month into his life sentence.
Moreover, as per Castro’s plea bargain, his house, where he kept the girls for all those years, would be demolished. Michelle Knight was present at the demolition and was giving out yellow balloons, which she said represented missing children.
The Harsh Truth
It doesn’t end there. That is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to abductions and kidnappings. All over the world, thousands of people are kidnapped, assaulted, raped or tortured. All to satiate the twisted desires of sadistic and predatory individuals. Children, women and men are snatched from their homes, taken abruptly from their day-to-day lives and forced to bear inhumane conditions, not knowing if they will ever escape. It is a horrible fate that no one deserves.