Judge sentences Castro to life in prison, plus 1,000 years
Ariel Castro insists he's not a "violent sexual predator"
He swears he didn't beat the victims
Victim Michelle Knight reads impact statement to Castro
When her chance came, kidnapping victim Michelle Knight lit into Ariel Castro, the man who held her captive and raped her in his Cleveland home for a decade.
“You took 11 years of my life away,” she said. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now, your hell is just beginning.”
In handing down a sentence of life without parole plus 1,000 years in prison, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.
Castro’s first stop after country jail will be the Lorain prison in Grafton, Ohio, where officials will evaluate him and decide where he will serve his sentence.
“You don’t deserve to be out in our community,” Russo told the defendant, explaining he would never leave prison. “You’re too dangerous.”
Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. The charges stem from his kidnapping, rape and assault of three women: Knight, abducted in 2002; Georgina DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Amanda Berry; abducted in 2003.
Castro is the father of Berry’s 6-year-old girl, DNA tests confirmed.
All three women kept diaries with Castro’s permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.
Berry and DeJesus, who did not attend the hearing, sent family members to deliver impact statements on their behalves, while Knight, 32, chose to address her abductor head-on.
“I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day,” she said, promising to overcome the experience. “I will live on. You will die a little every day.”
She said her friendship with DeJesus was the only positive element of her years in captivity and expressed gratitude that her “teammate” was there to save her when she was “dying from his abuse.”
In a pre-sentencing evaluation, Dr. Frank Ochberg, a pioneer in trauma science, wrote that Knight suffered “the longest and most severely.”
“It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth (of Berry’s child). She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,” he wrote. “At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.”
Despite his repeated insistence that he wasn’t making excuses for his conduct, Castro played the victim, saying he was addicted to porn and masturbation. In his oft-disjointed statement, he referred to himself as “very emotional” and “a happy person inside.”
Castro appeared to blame the victims and accused them of lying about their treatment. He went on to say that none of the women was a virgin when he abducted them, that they wanted sex and there was “harmony” in the “happy household.”
Castro even claimed that no one cared enough about Knight to search for her after her after she disappeared.
“I’m not a monster. I’m just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction,” he said. “God as my witness, I never beat these women like they’re trying to say that I did. I never tortured them.”
When Castro finished his statement, Russo dubbed him a “violent sexual predator” and thanked Knight for showing “remarkable restraint” during the hearing.
Wearing eyeglasses and an orange prison uniform, the shackled Castro characterized his crimes in a far gentler light than the book-length indictment handed down against him: “I’m not a violent person. I simply kept them there so they couldn’t leave.”
Testimony from authorities and mental health experts didn’t jibe with Castro’s recollection, however. Police recalled how the women were forced to play Russian roulette and how Castro would throw money at them after raping them.
Det. David Jacobs of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office testified he’d also show a gun “to the girls as a form of control.”
It was all to “purely satisfy his sexual needs,” Jacobs said. ” ‘I knew what I did was wrong.’ He said that more than once.”
Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home was reconfigured to keep their whereabouts a secret, FBI agent Andrew Burke testified. The back door was outfitted with an alarm, bedspreads and curtains obscured parts of them home and a porch swing was placed in front of the stairs leading to the rooms where Castro held the women and girl hostage.
Police also testified Castro would chain the women to objects, including a support pole in his basement.
In the room where Berry and her daughter were held, the doorknob was removed, a lock was affixed to the outside and a hole was cut through the door for ventilation because the windows had been boarded up from the inside, Burke said.
Burke also described a handwritten letter in which Castro claimed he had been sexually abused as a child and wrote, “I am a sexual predator.”
“You saved us!”
The first police officer on the scene, Barbara Johnson, recalled for the court how she and another officer heard the pitter-patter of footsteps in a dark room where Knight and DeJesus were held.
When the captive women realized they were police, Knight “literally launched herself” onto an officer, “legs, arms, just choking him. She just kept repeating, ‘You saved us! You saved us!’ ” Johnson said.