Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who confessed to kidnapping and repeatedly raping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, was sentenced to life in prison today after pleading guilty to charges against him:
Castro described himself as a sick person struggling with a sexual addiction, but he insisted that he was not abusive by nature.
“I know what I did was wrong, but I am not a violent person,” said the former school bus driver and musician, who pleaded guilty to 937 felony counts including rape, assault and kidnapping.
Of his three captives, who were repeatedly bound, beaten and raped over the course of a decade and were repeatedly deprived of food as well as their freedom, Castro said: “I simply kept them there without them being able to leave.”
Castro lured each of his victims to his home by offering them rides and then lying to them about what was inside his residence, a police detective testified at the sentencing hearing. He offered Knight a puppy, told Amanda Berry that she could visit his daughter, whom Berry knew, and asked Gina DeJesus for help moving a stereo speaker.
Each of the women told police that they trusted Castro, in part, because they knew at least one of his teenage or young adult children.
Within minutes of getting each woman inside the house, Detective Andrew Harasimchuk said, Castro tied them up and raped them. It was an immediate and horrific beginning to a decade of physical, sexual and emotional abuse. . . .
As part of his plea deal, Castro, 53, received a sentence of life with no chance of parole for aggravated murder on a charge of forced miscarriage. He also received 1,000 years for the kidnapping, rape, assault and other charges.
He was ordered to have no contact with his any of his victims, including his 6-year-old daughter.
Castro repeatedly apologized to Knight, Berry and DeJesus at the sentencing hearing. But in a rambling, 20-minute statement, he also disputed that he had been violent, saying there was “harmony” in his house, and insisting that he was a good father to the little girl he fathered with Berry.
“I am not a monster. I am a normal person. I am just sick,” Castro said. “I have an addiction. Just like an alcoholic has an addiction.”
At different times, he appeared to blame the FBI and the women themselves for various aspects of their long captivity. He said he did not plan to abduct Knight when he overheard her asking for directions in a dollar store, but he did so on impulse, driven by his aberrant sexual urges.
At the sentencing, prosecutors and law enforcement described some of Castro’s confessed crimes in detail:
FBI agent Andrew Burke said Castro created a makeshift alarm system and chained the women inside bolted bedrooms.
Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside with heavy closet doors and doorknobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks, he said. The house was divided in ways to make it more secure and to hide the existence of rooms, he said.
Burke also testified that Castro would occasionally pay his victims after raping them. But he then would require them to pay him if they wanted something special from the store.
The letter written by Castro was found in his home and shown in court. It read “Confession and Details” at the top.
Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Detective Dave Jacobs said he talked with Castro a few days after the women escaped and that Castro said, “I knew what I did was wrong.”
A police officer who helped rescue the women said one was reluctant to come out of her room even when she saw the officers. They were scared even after they were taken out of the house and quickly began sharing details about the horrors they went through, saying that they had been starved and beaten.
“They were just shouting out a lot of things,” said Cleveland police officer Barb Johnson. She described the women as thin, pale and scared.
Responding to questions from prosecutors, Cleveland police detective Andrew Harasimchuk said that the women all described a pattern of being physically, sexually and emotionally assaulted for years. He said all three women were abducted after Castro offered them a ride and that each was chained in his basement and sexually assaulted within a few hours of being kidnapped.
Prosecutors showed a model of the house where Castro imprisoned the women and displayed photos taken from inside the disheveled home.
Some horrific details of the women’s ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. One woman was forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, had a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.
Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.
For past coverage of this case, continue reading here.