Just a month into his life-plus-1,000 years sentence for the horrific kidnappings of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, Ohio kidnapper Ariel Castro was found dead in his quarters on September 3rd. Because of the severity and notoriety of his crime, Castro was being held under protective custody at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio. Although he wasn’t on suicide watch, his protective custody arrangement meant that he was kept alone, for fear of retribution from other inmates, and was checked on every 30 minutes. Despite the safety measures, however, Castro managed to commit suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet.
Reception of Castro’s death has not been kind, as most members of the public believe he had it coming. The man, after all, held three young women captive for ten years, sexually abusing, raping, and beating them during that time. But as Castro’s lawyer Craig Weintraub noted, people might see his suicide as “a happy ending to this story, and a quick ending and justifiable. But we’re in a civilized society and no one should really be celebrating this.”
Whatever emotional response his death may elicit, Castro isn’t the only criminal who’s died behind bars. Other notable bad guys have met their makers while serving time for their crimes against humanity.
Jeffrey Dahmer‘s alter ego, the Milwaukee Cannibal, is a macabre moniker but perhaps one too wholesome given the depths of his heinous deeds. He not only snacked on his victims but performed sexual acts on their decomposing bodies—the remnants of which were preserved by the killer as some kind of depraved trophy collection. They would also ultimately prove to be his downfall.
After one of Dahmer’s would-be victims escaped from his clutches, police were alerted to the murderer’s residence where Polaroids of the deceased were discovered. Upon finding more gruesome evidence in his apartment, Dahmer was apprehended and ultimately linked to the deaths of 17 men. He was convicted of the murder of 16 of them, and received a life imprisonment term for each. Two years into his sentence, a fellow inmate beat Dahmer and convicted murderer Jesse Anderson to death with a metal bar. He told authorities that God had instructed him to slay both men.
Recent DNA evidence proved what Albert DeSalvo had confessed many decades ago: that he was the Boston Strangler. In 2001, DNA tests failed to link him to the murder of Mary Sullivan, the Strangler’s last alleged victim, but advancements in forensic testing overturned that result earlier this year. With an unprecedented level of certainty, authorities are now sure DeSalvo killed Sullivan and that he’s tied to the strangling murders of 12 other women.
Though DeSalvo never served time for those crimes, it is somewhat comforting to know that he spent his last years behind bars (for other unrelated offenses). Still, the families of DeSalvo’s victims never got adequate closure since the Boston Strangler case was never closed and DeSalvo recanted his confession prior to his death. Just days before being stabbed through the heart by a fellow inmate, in a murder many suspect was coordinated with prison authorities, DeSalvo stated that he had important news to share concerning the Boston Strangler case. DNA has revealed what that might have been.
As with other high-ranking members of the Nazi party, Rudolf Hess was tried at Nuremberg. Though he wasn’t present for a large part of the Nazi’s most grievous crimes, having been captured by British forces while on a self-appointed mission to harbor peace between Britain and Germany, he was nonetheless sentenced to life in prison. The reasoning being that he had signed on many important governmental decrees that brought upon the death and suffering of millions.
Hess served the rest of his living years in Spandau Prison, even after all other fellow inmates had been released due to failing health. Soviet authorities made sure Hess wouldn’t get off so easily, vetoing any proposal that ensured the aging criminal’s early release. The 600-cell building would be Hess’ home until, at 93 years of age, he took his own life. Spandau was demolished soon after.
Philip Markoff was on the fast track to success. He was 23 years old, had a wedding in the works with his longtime girlfriend, and was two years into completing his medical degree at Boston University. Then, a traffic stop derailed his rosy rise.
The cops were on his trail for his alleged involvement in the Craigslist Killings when they apprehended him en route to a local casino. Though Markoff led a docile life in plain view, he was responsible for the armed robbery and murder of Julissa Brisman, a masseuse he met through Craigslist. Markoff was also connected to the armed robbery of two other women solicited through the online marketplace.
While awaiting trial, Markoff took his own life at Nashua Street Jail. He died a day after what would have been his one-year wedding anniversary to his fiancée.
Before laying waste to the lives of purportedly 250 people, British doc Harold Shipman broke another bond that was just as sacred: that between doctor and patient. Known as Dr. Death, Shipman abused that unspoken trust by injecting his victims with lethal levels of painkillers. The high death rate among those Shipman cared for sparked suspicion from his colleague Dr. Susan Booth. But a police investigation, including a look into the cremation forms and death certificates signed by the doctor, yielded no evidence of foul play, and the case was dropped.
A tampered-with document would ultimately bring down the doc. After his last victim, Kathleen Gundy, passed away, her daughter was surprised to discover that her will listed Shipman as the beneficiary of her estate. Questioning this unlikely decision and informed that the will might have been forged, Gundy’s daughter contacted authorities.
Shipman was eventually found guilty of 15 murders, but a review team’s investigation after his conviction pegged him to at least 235 others. Four years after being sentenced to life in prison, Shipman took an early exit. Adding to his notoriety as a control freak, he took his fate into his own hands and committed suicide in 2004.