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Ariel Castro
Photo: Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

Ariel Castro

Biography
(1960–2013)
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Ariel Castro received a prison sentence of life plus an additional 1,000 years for kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning three young women in Cleveland, Ohio.

Who Was Ariel Castro?

In 2002, Ariel Castro abducted three young women: Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus. He kept the women captive in his house for years, where he tormented and raped them. Berry's escape on May 6, 2013, led to Castro's arrest. On August 1, he was sent to prison for life plus 1,000 years. Castro was found hanged in his prison cell on September 3, 2013, in Orient, Ohio.

Early Life

Castro was born in Puerto Rico on July 10, 1960. As a child, he moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where members of his extended family already lived. In 1992, Castro bought a house at 2207 Seymour Avenue. He initially lived there with his wife and four children. However, Castro was allegedly violent with his wife and she left him in 1996, taking custody of their children as well.

Kidnapping Knight, Berry and DeJesus

In 2002, Castro offered 20-year-old Knight a ride. Knight, who knew one of Castro's daughters, accepted. After Castro convinced Knight to come inside his house, he proceeded to rape her. Knight would be Castro's captive for the next 11 years. In 2003, Castro offered to drive Berry, then 16, home from her job at Burger King. Like Knight, Berry knew Castro's children and got into his car. She was also kidnapped, assaulted and held captive. Castro repeated the same scenario in 2004 with 14-year-old DeJesus, who was a close friend of his daughter, Arlene.

Castro kept the women chained in his basement for years before moving them to barricaded rooms upstairs. Throughout their captivity, Castro restrained the women and subjected them to multiple sexual assaults. When Knight became pregnant, which happened several times, Castro starved and beat her until she miscarried. He allowed Berry's pregnancy to come to term but forced her to give birth inside a plastic swimming pool.

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Facade During Captivity

While holding the women captive in his home, Castro maintained a seemingly normal outside life. Family members still came to visit him, though he used locks to keep them from going into the basement and other parts of the house. He continued to work as a school bus driver — until he was fired in November 2012 — and played bass guitar with local groups. Castro even attended vigils for DeJesus, where he met with anguished members of her family.

Arrest and Sentence

On May 6, 2013, Berry escaped from Castro's house. Police quickly freed the other women and arrested Castro that same day. In July 2013, Castro agreed to a plea deal that spared him from the death penalty. On July 26, he pleaded guilty to 937 charges, which included kidnapping, rape and murder (the murder charge stemmed from his role in ending one of Knight’s pregnancies). On August 1, 2013, Castro was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 1,000 years.

Since his arrest, Castro has shown little remorse for his crimes. While in custody, he asked to see Berry's child, a request the court denied. In court, Castro insisted, "I'm not a monster. I'm sick." The three once-captive women, and Berry's daughter, are now living their lives freely. As for Castro, as Knight told him at his sentencing hearing, his "hell is just beginning."

Death

In a strange turn of events, Castro was found hanged in his prison cell at the Correction Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, at 9:20 p.m. on September 3, 2013. After prison medical staff tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate Castro, he was transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, roughly 20 miles outside of the Orient. At 10:52 p.m. that evening, he was pronounced dead.

The following month, speculation surfaced that Castro's death might not have been a suicide, but rather, caused by auto-erotic asphyxiation — a sexual act in which an individual achieves pleasure through choking themselves, ultimately causing them to lose consciousness. Countering those assertions, the medical examiner who conducted Castro's autopsy, Jan Gorniak of Ohio, stated that she wholly believed that Castro had planned his death. "I did the autopsy myself. I saw the ligature. I saw the pictures of the cell," Gorniak said, according to a report by CNN. "It was a suicide."

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