He robbed three young women of their freedom and their innocence in an almost decade-long nightmare of rape and captivity. Now Ariel Castro has escaped years behind bars after he hanged himself in his prison cell.
The former school bus driver had just started serving his jail term after being sentenced last month to life plus 1,000 years for abducting the three and keeping them imprisoned in the dungeon-like confines of his house, where they were starved, beaten and sexually assaulted.
Castro, 53, was found in his cell at the Correctional Reception Centre in Orient, in the US state of Ohio, on Tuesday. Prison staff tried to revive him before Castro was taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. Coroner Jan Gorniak said an autopsy showed the death was a suicide.
He had been in protective custody, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes, but he was not on suicide watch, which entails constant observation.
Castro's lawyer said prison authorities repeatedly denied Castro a psychologist. "If the state of Ohio is going to incarcerate an individual they should protect that individual from themselves and others," Jaye Schlachet said.
Castro had been at the centre since August 5 while having mental and physical evaluations before being sent to a permanent jail.
Prosecutor Tim McGinty acknowledged after Castro's sentencing that a suicide note and confession written by Castro was found by authorities when they searched his home. McGinty dismissed the letter as an attempt by Castro, whom he described as a "narcissist", to feel sorry for himself.
Gina DeJesus, 23, Amanda Berry, 27, and Michelle Knight, 32, disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped from Castro's home on May 6, when Berry broke part of a door and yelled to neighbours for help. "Help me," Berry said in an emergency phone call. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."
Also rescued was Berry's six-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro and born during her mother's captivity.
Knight was the only one of the three who appeared in court at Castro's sentencing. "I spent 11 years in hell," she said. "Now your hell is just beginning."
Associated Press, Reuters