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Razing the ’House of Horrors’

One company donates its time and equipment to clear away the building that caused so much fear and anger in the community.

Wed August 14, 2013 - National Edition
Christine Reckner

When Independence Excavating, a Cleveland-based full service site development and demolition company, heard about the three freed woman who were held captive for a decade, it decided to raise donations in its office for the victims.

The company, which was founded in 1956 by the DiGeronimo family, has close ties to the Cleveland community and felt compelled to help in any way they could.

Yet Vic DiGeronimo, president, felt they could do more. He reached out to the city and offered Independence Excavating’s time and equipment, at no cost, to demolish Ariel Castro’s house, the building where the woman were held captive.

“We reached out to the city with our offer and they accepted,” said Rob DiGeronimo, vice president. “We don’t consider it to be anything monumental, we feel it was a small contribution and we were happy to do it.”

Demolition on the 1,400 sq. ft. home began early on the morning of August 7, where the demo crew was met by hundreds of spectators, one of them being Michelle Knight, who handed out yellow balloons.

Knight attended the demolition to remind relatives of abducted children to never give up hope, adding that the array of balloons “represents all the millions of children that were never found and the ones that passed away that were never heard.”

The crowd of onlookers cheered on the demo crew as its Caterpillar 320 excavator made its first swipes at the roof of the house. As the debris fell to the basement, church bells rung out.

It definitely had a different feel to his normal jobs, according to Rob, who added that Independence Excavating is accustomed to doing much larger and more challenging projects.

“The only challenge was the safety aspect of keeping the debris away from all of the spectators,” he said, as well as from the adjacent houses, which were about 6 ft. (1.8 m) apart from each other on that block.

“It was a worthwhile experience, to see some of the mixed emotions and reactions, it was great to help do our part,” said DiGeronimo.

The goal is to tear the house down and get the property filled in, graded and seeded in a single day, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga Land Bank, which is supervising the demolitions.

After the demolishing, which only took around an hour and a half, Kurtz Brothers, another local family-owned company, donated disposal fees at the landfill, where the debris was pulverized to prevent looting.

Twenty-two thousand dollars was found and confiscated from Castro’s house, which would have covered the job (which was estimated to cost between $20,000 and $25,000) if Independence Excavating hadn’t offered to donate the work.

“The city of Cleveland has been very good to us, letting us utilize our talents, and we just wanted to do our part to give back,” said DiGeronimo.

The money was then offered to the victims, but they asked that it be used for the community.

On what should be done with the land now, Rob said, “Do whatever’s best for the neighborhood, what provides them the best way for them to heal.”

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