Friday, May 10, 2013
Ariel Castro's Former Bandmates Talk about the Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect
That's because Ariel Castro's band mates never found anything striking about him. They had no idea of the dark secrets locked away in his house.
Castro, 52, was arrested by Cleveland police in connection with the abduction of longtime missing women Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.
The news shocked musicians that knew the part-time bass player in the Cleveland music scene.
"The only thing I remember about him was that he was always late to practice," said Miguel Quinones, manager of Grupo Fuego, which has played in Northeast Ohio since 1999. Castro played with the Latin band in 2008.
The band never practiced at Castro's Seymour Avenue home, which Cleveland police say doubled as a prison for a decade or more for Berry, DeJesus and Knight.
Contact was limited to business. None of Castro's band mates came to his home, according to Quionones.
"The band rehearsed at the musical director's spot," he said. "We stopped working with Castro because he was always late."
He only played two gigs with Grupo Fuego, one in Youngstown and another in Cleveland, before being fired.
Castro also played bass on and off for 15 years in Grupo Kanon, which is widely known in Cleveland's Hispanic community for its performances at clubs, churches and cultural celebrations.
Band leader Ivan Ruiz knew Castro for about 20 years and never saw him with another person, woman or man -- even as he appeared in various groups, playing his bass.
"He could do the job, but he became increasingly defensive and unreliable in recent years," said Ruiz. "It was like he couldn't leave the house."
Castro did invite Ruiz' 17-year-old son over once, to have him rehearse the drums. Automatically, Ruiz answered, "No, don't go."
"I didn't trust having him with my child," Ruiz recalled.
"He was a senile kind of person. A crazy kind of person. He was weird," said Ruiz, a restaurateur and longtime Clevelander who is known on the music scene as Popo.
"He was always late for gigs and rehearsals," added Ruiz. "He always had to leave at the moment. I fired him last year."
Castro always had a set of excuses for being late.
"Traffic or running late," said Quinones. "Excuses a musician might make up."
In a Facebook post, Grupo Fuego tried to clarify its relationship with Castro, who was arrested along with his brothers, Pedro and Onil, ages 54 and 50.
The post reads:
"We are really happy, relieved, and shocked at the same time for all that has transpired in Cleveland in the past day. May God bless Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, Michelle Knight, and relatives involved in this crazy nightmare. We hope they can continue with their lives and put all this behind.
At the same time, the main suspect in custody has been a local musician for many years and has performed with several bands as a bass guitar player. For some reason we don't understand, he decided to list our band as an employer on his Facebook page. To set the record straight, he is not a member of Grupo Fuego, and in our 14 year span as a band, he performed as a sub twice in the year 2008, once in August, and once in November of that year."
Castro also played with Los Boy'z Del Merengue, which has had gigs at places such as Belinda's Night Club, on Cleveland's West Side.
He performed with Roberto Ocasio in 2003. Ocasio, a renowned area bandleader, died in 2004.
"I knew Castro as a good bass player and never had any contact with him other than that," said Ocasio's former manager, Bev Montie.
Montie currently heads the Roberto Ocasio Foundation, which conducts music camps for kids.
"We're all horrified to think of all this, especially with our situation with children," she added. "But Castro was never part of any children's program we conducted."
He was just the bass player in the band.
"This is crazy -- I never imagined anything, let alone something like this," said Quinones. "I knew this gentleman, Mr. Castro, as a musician -- and that he was always late."
Posted by The Birmingham Free Press at Friday, May 10, 2013