Huffpost Crime

Ariel Castro Dead: Cleveland Kidnapper Found Hanging In Prison Cell

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Ariel Castro makes a statement in the courtroom during the sentencing phase Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Ariel Castro makes a statement in the courtroom during the sentencing phase Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro was found dead on Tuesday evening, 19 Action News reported. He was 53.

On Aug. 1, Castro was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years in prison for kidnapping and raping Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and Gina DeJesus, and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for more than a decade.

He pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table, CNN reported.

During the sentencing, Castro denied being abusive and insisted that most of the sex was consensual.

'I'm not a violent person," Castro said. "I simply kept them there without them being able to leave."

The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004. They escaped on May 6, when one of the women broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested that same night.

READ MORE: Key Events In Ohio Kidnapping

According to JoEllen Smith of the Ohio Department of Corrections, Castro was found hanging in his prison cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday. Although prison medical staff performed lifesaving measures, he was later pronounced dead at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

At the time of his death, Castro was isolated from other inmates for his own protection.

Ohio State Police and the Department of Corrections are investigating the death.

More from the AP:

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The man who held three women captive in his home for nearly a decade before one escaped and alerted authorities has been found dead and is believed to have committed suicide, a prison official said.

Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, located south of Columbus in central Ohio, JoEllen Smith, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman, said early Wednesday.

Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead around 10:50 p.m.

He was in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes, but was not on suicide watch, Smith said. She said suicide watch entails constant observation.

Castro was also watched closely in Cuyahoga County Jail in the several weeks after his arrest and before his case was resolved by a guilty plea, with logs noting his activity every 10 minutes. He was taken off county jail suicide watch in early June after authorities determined he was not a suicide risk.

Castro's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have a psychological examination of Castro done at the Cuyahoga County Jail, where Castro was housed before he was turned over to state authorities following his conviction, his attorney, Jaye Schlachet, told The Associated Press early Wednesday. Schlachet said he could not immediately comment further.

In an interview last month after Castro's conviction, Schlachet and attorney Craig Weintraub said their client clearly fit the profile of sociopathic disorder and that they hoped researchers would study him for clues that could be used to stop other predators.

The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped from Castro's Cleveland home May 6, when Amanda Berry, one of the women, broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help.

"Help me," she said in a 911 call. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."

The two other women were so scared of Castro that they held back initially even as police officers began to swarm the house. But quickly they realized they were free.

"You saved us! You saved us!" another of the captives, Michelle Knight, told an officer as she leaped into his arms.

Castro was arrested that evening. He had also fathered a child with Berry while she was in captivity; that girl was 6 years old when freed. A judge rejected Castro's request to have visiting rights with his daughter.

Elation over the women's rescue soon turned to shock as details emerged about conditions of their captivity. Investigators say they were bound with chains, repeatedly raped and deprived of food and bathroom facilities. Knight told investigators she was beaten and starved several times to force her to miscarry.

Messages left for the women's lawyers were not immediately returned early Wednesday.

Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years on his guilty plea to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape.

In a rambling statement, he told the judge he was not a monster but a man suffering from a pornography addiction.

"I'm not a monster. I'm sick," Castro said at his sentencing.

Knight was the only one of the three who appeared in court at his sentencing.

"You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back," she said in the hushed courtroom. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning."

This is the second high-profile suicide in an Ohio prison in a month.

On Aug. 4, death row inmate Billy Slagle was found hanged in his cell just days before his scheduled execution. He was condemned to death for fatally stabbing a neighbor.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus

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