Ariel Castro gave ex-daughter-in-law the 'heebie-jeebies'

Castro 'played a lot of mind games'
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Story highlights

  • Monica Stephens never wanted to get close to Ariel Castro
  • She said her ex-husband, ex-mother-in-law shared disturbing stories about him
  • During her marriage she did make a visit to Castro's home

Ariel Castro's ex-daughter-in-law never felt comfortable around the man who police say kept three young women trapped in a Cleveland home for a decade.

Monica Stephens -- who was once married to Castro's son Anthony -- said she never developed a close relationship with Castro, primarily because of the stories her ex-husband and ex-mother-in-law had shared with her.

"I never had the desire to get to know him personally or very closely," Stephens told CNN's Piers Morgan on Tuesday night. "Both my ex-husband and his mother had shared with me stories of how he had beaten them, locked them in the house, just treated them like hostages, so I never had a desire to get to know him. He didn't have that like, you know, father-in-law appeal."

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Stephens said she had been told Castro's alleged abuse of Anthony Castro began when he was a child and that he even beat his wife, Grimilda Figueroa, after she had brain surgery.

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"He still continued to beat her. He hit her in the head. Either he kicked her or hit her with a lead pipe," she said. "I don't even think I really fully could grasp just how horrible some of the stories were."

In addition to the beatings, Castro "played a lot of mind games" with the family members, Stephens said she was told.

Court documents show that Castro was in fact accused in 2005 of repeated abuse and domestic violence against Figueroa. The allegations include a broken nose, broken ribs and threats to kill her. But after several missed court appearances by Castro and repeated court delays, the petition was dismissed.

Lawyers for Castro told CNN affiliate WKYC that their client is being wrongly depicted by many.

"The initial portrayal by the media has been one of a 'monster' and that's not the impression that I got when I talked to him for three hours," attorney Craig Weintraub told WKYC.

Another Castro attorney, Jaye Schlachet, added: "I know the media wants to jump to conclusions and all the people in the community want to say terrible things about the person who's accused. We are not even at the beginning of the process. If this was a marathon race, we're not even at the starting line yet."

During her marriage, Stephens made a visit with Anthony Castro to Ariel Castro's home. Stories she heard about how he would "obsessively" keep things locked up in the house made her nervous during her short visit.

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"I don't think we were there more than 20 minutes. It wasn't a normal occurrence. I think that was the one and only time I had ever been there. Ariel Castro always gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I thought that was just because of my personal bias," she said. "Like I said, I just attribute to the things I had heard about him."

Stephens said she didn't hear any unusual noises when she was in the house.

The three women once held captive in that house -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- have said in a statement from their attorney they want privacy so they can reconnect with their families. They also won't be giving any media interviews until after the criminal case against Castro is complete.

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Berry and DeJesus returned to joyous homecomings with their families last week. The whereabouts of Knight are unknown. She has not reunited with her family, but a source close to the investigation told CNN she "is in a safe place and very comfortable."

Castro, a 52-year-old bus driver and musician, faces charges of rape and kidnapping in connection with the prolonged captivity of the women.

According to initial police reports, the women told investigators that they were chained in the basement of the home, but later moved upstairs to rooms on the second floor. They were allowed out of the home only twice, and then just briefly, according to the document.

How the horror unfolded