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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro dead: commits suicide in prison

By Lateef Mungin and Dave Alsup, CNN
September 4, 2013 -- Updated 2236 GMT (0636 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: At least two investigations will be conducted into his death
  • Prosecutor: Castro couldn't take what he dished out for a decade
  • Castro's attorney says more protection should have been provided
  • During his sentencing, Castro played the victim

(CNN) -- He was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for a heinous crime, but in the end he cut that life short.

Ariel Castro, convicted of kidnapping and raping three women, as well as murder, committed suicide in his prison cell Tuesday night, the Franklin County, Ohio, coroner's office said.

The discovery of the three women who had been Castro's captives in his Cleveland home for about a decade was shocking from the outset, and surprising in its end.

Castro, 52, hanged himself with a bedsheet, Coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak told CNN on Wednesday. He was being held at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient.

Prison medical staff tried to revive him but failed.

Castro was taken to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had tough words in the wake of Castro's suicide.

"These degenerate molesters are cowards," Timothy J. McGinty said. "... This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade."

Why did Ariel Castro kill himself?
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Ariel Castro listens during the sentencing phase of his trial Thursday, August 1, in Cleveland alongside defense attorneys Craig Weintraub, left, and Jaye Schlachet. Castro held three women captive for years inside his Ohio home until their escape in May. He pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. On September 4, Castro was found dead inside his prison cell in Orient, Ohio. Ariel Castro listens during the sentencing phase of his trial Thursday, August 1, in Cleveland alongside defense attorneys Craig Weintraub, left, and Jaye Schlachet. Castro held three women captive for years inside his Ohio home until their escape in May. He pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping. On September 4, Castro was found dead inside his prison cell in Orient, Ohio.
Kidnapped teens found decade later
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Castro's brother-in-law, Juan Alicea, told CNN that the family was notified by the warden about 1 a.m. The family is angry, he said, that it first learned about the death from media reports.

Alicea said that Castro's mother and sister visited him twice in prison, most recently on August 26.

During that last visit, both women said they were worried by his demeanor, mood and body language; he appeared depressed, Alicea said.

But nothing indicated that Castro was contemplating suicide, Alicea said, recounting what the women told him. In fact, he said, the final letter that Castro's mother received from the inmate was more upbeat.

Another family member, Maria Castro-Montes, said she cried when she heard the news.

Her first thoughts were with the three victims -- Michelle Knight, Georgina DeJesus and Amanda Berry -- and what they must be feeling. Would they be glad or angry about Castro's death?

The three women held captive by Castro are aware of his suicide, Knight's attorney, Kathryn Joseph, told CNN. She said the women will not be making a statement.

Castro-Montes said nearly everyone in the family had cut ties with Castro, and relatives hope that with his death, the tragic story can come to an end.

"It was just shock and part of it was even relief in hopes that now this will just end all of it and that his name will not be out in the spotlight for years and years to come," she told CNN. "I just hope the victims can move past this now."

'No one should be celebrating'

Castro was not a part of the general prison population, officials said.

"He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals," JoEllen Smith of the corrections department told CNN in a written statement.

"A thorough review of this incident is under way," she added.

At least two investigations will be done, according to another corrections department statement.

The prison director commissioned a review team, to be made up of legal, medical, mental health, security and operational professionals not directly involved in the incident, to analyze Castro's death.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol will conduct a separate, independent investigation.

'Hope for everyone,' ex-captive says before house demolished

But Castro attorney Craig Weintraub said more precautions against a possible suicide should have been taken.

Castro's attorneys had requested permission for an independent forensic psychologist to evaluate their client, but were denied by officials, he said.

If Castro was believed to be suicidal, he should have been under stricter protection, he said.

Some will see his death as "a happy ending to this story, and a quick ending and justifiable," Weintraub said. "But we're in a civilized society and no one should really be celebrating this."

No place in the world

In handing down a sentence last month, Judge Michael Russo told the kidnapper there was no place in the world for his brand of criminal.

Castro pleaded guilty 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 Knight, abducted in 2002; DeJesus, abducted in 2004; and Berry; abducted in 2003.

Castro is the father of Berry's 6-year-old daughter, DNA tests confirmed.

Castro's victims resilient after years of abuse

'You will die a little every day'

All three women kept diaries with Castro's permission, providing many of the details of their abuse.

"I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried what would happen to me and the other girls every day," Knight, 32, said, as she addressed her abductor head-on during his sentencing. "I will live on. You will die a little every day."

In each case, Castro lured the women into his car with the promise of a ride, according to court documents. The women and girl were freed in May after Berry shouted for help while Castro was away.

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Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade. Amanda Berry speaks in a video released on YouTube on Monday, July 8, thanking people for support and privacy. Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight escaped from a Cleveland home on May 6 after being held captive for nearly a decade.
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Neighbors heard her cries and came to her aid as she tried to break through a door. One neighbor gave her a cell phone to call authorities.

"Help me, I am Amanda Berry," she frantically told a 911 operator. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years. And I'm here, I'm free now."

Captives' hellish life inside Castro's home

Plays the victim, blames the victims

During his sentencing, 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'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 the 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."

Most dramatic moments from his sentencing

'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.

The women were described as scared, pale, malnourished and dehydrated when they were rescued. Dr. Gerald Maloney, who was in the emergency room when the victims arrived, said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

Castro's son said he wouldn't visit dad in prison

CNN's Mariano Castillo, Martin Savidge, Allison Malloy, Marina Carver and Kait Richmond contributed to this report.

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