He played bass guitar in salsa and merengue bands. He parked his school bus on the street. He gave neighborhood children rides on his motorcycle.
And when they gathered for a candlelight vigil to remember two girls who vanished years ago, Castro was there, too, comforting the mother of one of the missing, a neighbor said.
Neighbors and friends were stunned by the arrest of Castro and his two brothers after a 911 call led police to his house, where authorities say three women missing for about a decade were held captive.
A 6-year-old girl also was found in the home, and a neighbor said she was at a park a week earlier with Castro, who referred to her as his "girlfriend's daughter." Israel Lugo lives down the street from the house where the women were found Monday and said he was stunned to see one of them holding the girl, who was screaming and crying.
Castro and his brothers, ages 50 to 54, were in custody Tuesday but had not been formally charged.
Castro was friends with the father of Gina DeJesus, one of the missing women, and helped search for her after she disappeared, said Khalid Samad, a friend of the family. He also performed music at a fundraiser held in her honor, Samad said.
"When we went out to look for Gina, he helped pass out fliers," said Samad, a community activist who was at the hospital with DeJesus and her family Monday night. "You know, he was friends with the family."
Tito DeJesus, one of Gina's uncles, said he played in a few bands with Castro over the past 20 years. He remembered visiting Castro's house after his niece disappeared, but he never noticed anything out of ordinary, saying it was very sparsely furnished and filled with musical instruments.
"That's pretty much what it looked like," DeJesus said. "I had no clue, no clue whatsoever that this happened."
Castro's son, Anthony Castro, said in an interview with London's Daily Mail newspaper that he now speaks with his father just a few times a year and seldom visited his house. On his last visit two weeks ago, he said, his father would not let him inside.
"The house was always locked," he told the newspaper. "There were places we could never go. There were locks on the basement. Locks on the attic. Locks on the garage."
Juan Perez, who lives two doors down from the house, has known Castro for decades.
"He was always happy, nice, respectful," Perez said. "He gained trust with the kids and with the parents. You can only do that if you're nice."
He said Castro had an ATV and a motorcycle and would take children on rides. Nothing seemed wrong with it then, he said, adding that he now thinks that was one way Castro tried to get close to the children. He also worked until recently as a school bus driver.
Castro's personnel file with the Cleveland public school district, obtained by The Associated Press through a Freedom of Information request, shows he was hired in 1990 as a bus driver after saying on his application that he liked working with children.
The personnel file includes details on his dismissal, approved by the school board last fall after he left his bus unattended for four hours.
Police identified the other two suspects as the 52-year-old's brothers, Pedro Castro, 54, and Onil Castro, 50.
A relative of the three brothers said their family was "as blindsided as anyone else."
Juan Alicea said he hadn't been to the home of his brother-in-law Ariel Castro since the early 1990s but had eaten dinner with him at a different brother's house shortly before the arrests Monday.
Lucy Roman lives next to a house she said is shared by Pedro Castro and his mother. She said police arrested him Monday night.
"I feel sorry for her," Roman said of the mother. "She's a very nice lady."
Several residents said they saw Ariel Castro at a candlelight vigil for the missing girls.
Antony Quiros said he was at the vigil about a year ago and saw Castro comforting Gina DeJesus' mother.
One neighbor, Francisco Cruz, said he was with Castro the day investigators dug up a yard looking for the girls.
Castro told Cruz, "They're not going to find anyone there," Cruz recalled.
Castro's Facebook page identifies him as a Cleveland resident and says he attended the city's Lincoln-West High School. His interests include Virginia Beach, the Chinese crested dog breed and Cuban-born salsa singer Rey Ruiz.
On April 11, he wrote to congratulate "my Rosie Arlene" and wish her a fast recovery from giving birth to "a wonderful baby boy. That makes me Gramps for the fifth time. Luv you guys!"
___ Associated Press writers Mike Householder, Thomas J. Sheeran, Andrew Welsh-Huggins in Cleveland and Meghan Barr and Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pa., contributed to this report.
"I am one imperfect man saved by God's grace," the Republican told about 100 cheering supporters Tuesday after defeating Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch to win back the 1st District seat he held for three terms in the 1990s. "It's my pledge to all of you going forward I'm going to be one of the best congressmen I could have ever been."
On Wednesday, Sanford told NBC's "Today" show he thinks his record as a watchdog for taxpayers was more important than his personal redemption story.
"I think I have an incredibly strong track record with regard to watching out for people's pocketbook," he said.
Although the race was thought to be close going into the voting, Sanford collected 54 percent of the vote against Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert, in a district that hasn't elected a Democratic congressman in more than three decades. About 32 percent of the district's voters went to the polls. Green Party candidate Eugene Platt finished far behind.
"Some guy came up to me the other day and said you look a lot like Lazarus," Sanford told the crowd Tuesday night, referring to the man who, according to the Bible, Christ raised from the dead. "I've talked a lot about grace during the course of this campaign," he said. "Until you experience human grace as a reflection of God's grace, I don't think you really get it. And I didn't get it before."
While he credited his conservative credentials on Wednesday, he did not back away from his problems.
"I let a lot of folks down back in 2009 and yet I've been on a remarkable personal journey since then and I hope my life will reflect that going forward," Sanford said.
Sanford, who turns 53 later this month, has now never lost a race in four runs for Congress and two for governor. And he said before the votes were counted Tuesday that if he lost this one, he wouldn't run for office again.
He saw his political career disintegrate in summer 2009 when he disappeared for five days, telling his staff he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. He returned to admit in a tearful news conference he had been in Argentina with his mistress — a woman to whom he is now engaged. Sanford later paid a $70,000 ethics fine, the largest in state history, for using public money to fly for personal purposes. His wife and political ally, Jenny, divorced him.
Three weeks before the special election, news surfaced that Sanford's ex-wife had filed a court complaint alleging he was in her house without permission in violation of their divorce decree, leading the National Republican Congressional Committee to pull its support from the campaign. Sanford must appear in court Thursday on the complaint.
Sanford said he tried to get in touch with his ex-wife and was in the house so his youngest son would not have to watch the Super Bowl alone.
The congressional seat became vacant when U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint resigned from his Senate seat late last year. Governor Nikki Haley then appointed the sitting congressman, Tim Scott, to fill DeMint's seat.
"We put up a heck of a fight, didn't we?" Colbert Busch told a crowd of supporters at a hotel in Charleston. "The people have spoken, and I respect their decision."
Although the district is strongly Republican, Colbert Busch raised more money than Sanford. And national Democrats flooded the airwaves with ads attacking Sanford's past indiscretions.
Steve Israel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said Sanford now becomes the face of the Republican efforts to reach out to women voters and the GOP will have to defend him.
"In this deep red Republican district that Mitt Romney won by 18 points, the fact that the Democrat made this competitive is a testament to the strength of Elizabeth Colbert Busch as a candidate and the Republican habit of nominating flawed candidates," he said in a statement.
But Greg Walden, his counterpart at the National Republican Congressional Committee countered that the "results demonstrate just how devastating the policies of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi are for House Democrats in 2014. Democrats spent more than $1 million trying to elect a candidate who was backed by the Democrat machine, but at the end of the day, running on the Obama-Pelosi ticket was just too toxic for Elizabeth Colbert Busch."
A south St. Louis city service station was robbed Wednesday morning. KSDK-TV reports the two men, one armed with a gun, got away with cash.
St. Louis Police report they were notified of the crime at the BP convenience store at Grand and Connecticut around 1:40 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The clerk told police two men with dark clothes ordered the employee to hand over the cash before they fled the scene.
Investigators hope to get some answers from a St. Peters man as to why a young woman jumped out of the car he was driving.
KSDK-TV reports the Missouri Highway Patrol wants to know what motivated 23-year-old Julia Armstrong jumped from the car as it traveled eastbound on Interstate 70 just west of Zumbehl Road just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Armstrong is recovering in the hospital.
The driver, 53-year-old James Anthony of St. Peters, was expected to be questioned.