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Prosecutor: Girl kidnapped, bound, left for dead in basement

Charles Castle, a longtime family friend, is charged with kidnapping, rape and attempted aggravated murder.

KENTON, Ohio — Tuesday marks the 8th birthday of a little girl officials say was kidnapped from her Hardin County home last fall before being held captive, sexually assaulted, choked to the point of unconsciousness, and left for dead.

But the prosecutor argues it was the birthday of Charles “Chuck” Castle that may have led to that crime. That’s because November 10, 2021, was Castle’s birthday. And the prosecutor alleges Castle kidnapped the little girl as a “present” to himself that day.

“The child will testify that she was bound with tape,” Hardin County Prosecutor Bradford Bailey said. “She has given interviews of silver tape. She’s even said she was bound with black tape. She’s also going to tell you that she had what appeared to be a lamp cord put around her neck, and she was choked. She was taped enough that she passed out from the tape, couldn’t breathe. She also was basically strangled enough with this light cord, that she passed out.”

The details of the nearly two days she was missing were laid out in court on Tuesday.

The prosecution says Castle took the girl from her home and drove her to his RV just a couple of blocks away. That RV sat behind his mother’s home and belonged to the brother of the little girl’s father.

Castle was a longtime family friend who had been having dinner almost nightly at the home of the little girl after separating from his wife. In fact, the parents of the little girl testified that, on the morning it was discovered that their daughter was missing, the father walked over to Castle’s RV to ask if he had seen her.

Later testimony would reveal that the little girl says, at that time, she was bound and trapped inside the closet of the RV as Castle “lied” to her father.

It was sometime after that that the prosecution alleges the little girl was taken to an abandoned home on County Road 180, roughly 7 miles away from the RV. She would tell both a medic and detective, according to testimony, that she had been thrown down the basement stairs, injuring her elbow. She would remain in that freezing, dark basement, without food or water, until she was found late on the night of November 12.

“This girl, the evidence will establish, was so cold, she was a survivor,” Bailey said. “She basically scrounged through that dirty, filthy basement and found what appeared to be part of a legging or an arm out of a jacket or some sort of material, and she crawled into that with her legs to stay warm.”

Her discovery hinged on a tip from the owner of that abandoned home. He testified in court Tuesday that Charles Castle had contacted him in the months leading up to the kidnapping asking if his house was empty and available to rent. The owner said, when he heard about the disappearance, he had a “gut feeling” Castle could be involved and informed both his son and a local school resource officer.

The detective testified he discovered the girl by shining a light through the window of the door leading down to the basement. He first saw feet and then a girl waving.

He said she was freezing, apologized for urinating on herself, and told him a man named “Charlie” had thrown her down the stairs.

And that name could be a point of evidence for the defense. Elizabeth Smith, who is representing Castle, argued the crimes against the little girl were horrific but that her client did not commit them. While the little girl repeatedly used the name Charlie, by all accounts, Castle was only known as Chuck.

“I’m sure that this untraditional life of Charles Castle is not like the life that each of you live,” she said. “However, that does not mean the because of his untraditional life he’s the man that committed these horrific crimes.”

Those crimes have left a lasting impact on the little girl. She not only is in physical therapy but also in counseling. Her mother broke down in tears on the stand describing her daughter’s injuries, which could include permanent brain damage.

“Now she can’t run or jump,” the mother said. “She’s not allowed to play. She’s limited basically on what she can do. She acts like her right arm doesn’t even exist. She doesn’t use both of her hands. The poor girl gets frustrated so much, she just ends up breaking down and crying. She’s a lot less ongoing, like she doesn’t go with the flow anymore. Now she just fights everything. She just thinks she can’t do it. She keeps telling me she’s broken.”

Castle is facing 17 charges, including kidnapping, rape and attempted aggravated murder. He is being held on a $1.5 million bond.

On Monday, he withdrew his plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Now he is simply pleading not guilty.

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