Cleveland kidnapper found dead
Ariel Castro, sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and beatings of three women in Cleveland, is found dead in his Ohio jail cell.PT1M18S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2t674 620 349 September 5, 2013
Ariel Castro, who held three women captive in his Cleveland home for nearly a decade, has been found dead at a state prison facility, US corrections officials say.
Spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said Castro, 53, was found in his cell about 9.20pm on Tuesday (12.20pm AEST on Wednesday) at the Correctional Reception Centre in Orient, Ohio.
Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10.52pm. Castro is believed to have killed himself.
Ariel Castro breaks down while talking about the child that he fathered with Amanda Berry as he addresses the court while seated between attorneys. Photo: Reuters
An official statement said Castro was in protective custody, meaning "he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals".
Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped on May 6, when one of the women broke part of a door and yelled to neighbours for help. Castro was arrested that evening.
Castro was sentenced on August 1 to life in prison plus 1000 years on his guilty plea to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape.
Michelle Knight reads her statement to court during Ariel Castro's sentencing hearing. Photo: Reuters
Castro was alternately defiant and apologetic while showing no remorse in a rambling final statement to the court. Although he said he was sorry for his actions, he insisted "I am not a monster".
"If you asked my daughter she would say, my dad is the best dad in the world," Castro said.
"All the sex was consensual," Castro told the judge before sentencing. "The girls were not virgins. They had multiple sex partners before me."
Chains found in a bedroom are shown during Ariel Castro's sentencing hearing. Photo: AP
Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo, describing Castro as suffering from "extreme narcissism," said the crimes were so extreme that the former school bus driver should never emerge from prison.
Castro had pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges including murder for beating and starving Ms Knight to force her to miscarry during pregnancy.
'Years turned into eternity'
Gruesome scene: chains and locks are pictured in Ariel Castro's house. Photo: Reuters
Ms Knight made a dramatic appearance in court before the sentencing and read a written statement saying that Castro had persecuted her, beginning with her abduction in 2002 until she was freed.
"Days turned into nights, nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity. I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn't care," Ms Knight said, choking back tears at the time of Castro's sentencing.
"I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning," Ms Knight said of Castro.
Inside Ariel Castro's house of horrors
An image is shown on a courtroom monitor of a letter that Ariel Castro wrote explaining many of his crimes and stating that "I am a sexual predator", during Castro's sentencing on kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo: REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk
Wearing leg shackles and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Castro sparred with the judge over some of the charges and listened to the testimony and sentencing without expression.
Ms Berry, Ms DeJesus and Ms Knight all went missing from the west side of Cleveland. They were discovered on May 6 after neighbours heard Ms Berry's cries for help from Castro's home.
Ms Berry has a six-year-old daughter fathered by Castro in captivity, according to DNA evidence.
Ariel Castro made his victims wear this helmet while he raped them. Photo: Reuters
The child had a "normal" life, Castro said. In court, he described the little girl as his "miracle child." The only point at which he became at all emotional was when he spoke about her.
"I heard I can file for parental rights," Castro told the judge at one point. The judge responded that he would not be allowed any contact with the girl.
House of horrors
Earlier in Castro's court hearing, prosecutors presented graphic evidence of the crimes, including a dollhouse-size replica of the home where he imprisoned the women. There were also photos of the interior of the house showing chains, boarded up windows, numerous locks and curtains separating rooms.
To the casual observer, it was an ordinary suburban house, the exterior a little weathered and run down, the yard bordering on neglect.
But as police and forensic investigators discovered to their - and the world's - horror, it was a house that hid dark secrets; a house filled with the vile manifestations of a depraved man.
Police photographs showed two rooms in which Ms Berry and her child were sometimes kept, with Disney film posters tacked to the pink walls, stuffed animals lined up on the bed.
In horrifying contrast, rusted iron chains were found on the floor and the windows boarded with heavy wooden planks.
The women were rarely given access to the bathroom, instead having to relieve themselves in plastic buckets that were "emptied infrequently", according to prosecutors.
More than 45 kilograms of chain was found in total throughout the filthy, darkened house.
Prosecutors told the court how Castro kept a "significant amount of cash" in a basement washing machine, which he would then throw at the victims after raping them.
The women could then use the money to beg him for food and small personal items.
The three women were often chained up for days at a time and were fed just once a day.
Based on diary entries, police told of how the women were chained to poles in the basement, or to a bedroom heater, or kept in a van for days on end.
One woman, after she tried to escape, had a vacuum-cleaner cord wrapped around her neck, according to a prosecution memo.
Castro also kept a motorcycle helmet in the basement, which he would force the women to wear, to muffle their screams as he repeatedly raped them.
Two vacant homes next to the property where Castro held the three women captive were demolished last week.
Castro's home was destroyed a month ago under the plea deal that spared him a possible death sentence and forced him to turn over the deed to the house and pay for its demolition.
AP, Reuters and Jessica Wright
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