Joining his family for rice and beans and an afternoon of yard work at his mother’s working-class Cleveland home on Monday, Ariel Castro was in high spirits.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Familia!'” his brother-in-law Juan Alicea tells PEOPLE in this week’s cover story. Before he left, “He kissed his mom goodbye and said, ‘I love you, Mom; the food was good.’ Just like normal.”
But as much of the country would soon learn, it was no ordinary day.
Within hours, Castro, 52, and his brothers Pedro, 54, and Onil, 50, were arrested after three missing women – Amanda Berry, 27, who disappeared 10 years ago; Gina DeJesus, just 14 when she vanished in 2004; and Michelle Knight, who was 21 at the time of her 2002 disappearance – escaped from Castro’s Cleveland home.
“Our family is just as devastated as anyone else,” says Alicea. “They are shocked.”
But while the avid bass guitar player and motorcyclist maintained a relatively low profile, there may have been hints at a hidden side.
“I grew up knowing him and he was always nice and friendly,” says Feliceonna Lopez, 16. “He would give us motorcycle rides. Out of nowhere he started acting crazy, and my mom told me to stay away from his house. He started boarding up his house about four years ago. He stopped talking to everyone when he used to come to all the parties. He just got weird.”
For much more on the Cleveland kidnapping case, including details about the women’s harrowing escape, pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday