Reuters and AFP
CLEVELAND/WASHINGTON — Ariel Castro, sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and beatings of three Cleveland women he held captive for years in his house, was found hanged in his Ohio prison cell late on Tuesday, a state corrections official stated. The former school bus driver, who was under protective custody and had been isolated from other inmates at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, was found dead at about 9:20 p.m. when prison staff were making their rounds, Rehabilitation and Correction Department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said. After prison medical personnel tried to resuscitate him, Castro, 53, he was transferred to an area hospital and pronounced dead about 90 minutes later, she said. Castro was sentenced on Aug. 1 to life plus 1,000 years in prison without the possibility of parole for abducting his three victims and keeping them imprisoned in the dungeon-like confines of his house, where they were starved, beaten and sexually assaulted for about a decade. He was taken into custody just after the three women he held captive — Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 — were freed from the house with assistance from neighbors who heard Berry’s cries for help and came to her aid.
Rescued along with them was Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro and born during her mother’s captivity. Capping one of the most sensational U.S. crime stories in recent memory, Americans were elated by news that the three women had been found alive and freed but were stunned by the circumstances of their ordeal. Castro pleaded guilty in July to a total of 937 offenses, including kidnapping, rape, felonious assault and a charge of aggravated murder under a fetal homicide law for the forcible miscarriage of one of his three victims. His plea deal with prosecutors spared Castro a possible death penalty for murder.