Just over one month after 53-year-old Ariel Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for holding three women captive for roughly a decade, he was found hanging in his prison cell at the Correctional Reception Center outside of Columbus, Ohio.
People who knew him have shown little sympathy.
“These degenerate molesters are cowards,” said Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty in a statement about Castro’s suicide. “They con and capture vulnerable children. This man couldn’t take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade.”
Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins said Castro’s death is just another painful reminder of what occurred. “People are trying to move on with their lives and it is just a sad reminder of what occurred,” he said. “People don’t enjoy the fact he is back in the news. People really want to move on.”
But Miguel Quinones, the manager of the band Grupo Fuego that Castro once played with, said he was upset to hear of his friend’s death. “Maybe his mind was going crazy,” he said. “I feel sad that he took his life like that, because I don’t think God will accept that. I feel bad for his mother. I think he felt bad for what he did.”
Castro, 53, was found at 9:20 p.m. on Tuesday night at the Ohio Correctional Reception Center in Orient, and after failed attempts by medical staff to revive him, he was pronounced dead at a hospital at 10:52 p.m. Castro was in protective custody and was being monitored every 30 minutes by prison guards.
Fernando Colon, who was married to Castro’s ex-wife, says he is not surprised to hear about Castro’s sudden death. “I knew something like that was going to happen,” he said. “I just didn’t think it was going to be this soon." Colon added: “If you see the irony, these girls went almost 11 years in captivity and they survived. They were strong and he didn’t even last 30 days.”
Castro’s sudden death closes a terrible chapter in a saga that began over a decade ago when three Cleveland women—Amanda Berry, Gina De Jesus, and Michelle Knight—went missing separately between 2002 and 2004. The women escaped on May 6 after Berry, who gave birth to Castro’s daughter while in captivity, broke down part of a door and screamed at neighbors for help. Police arrested the former school bus driver later that day.
Castro, who pleaded guilty in order to avoid the death penalty, shocked court watchers with a self-serving farewell speech, in which he claimed he didn’t abuse the girls and that the sex was consensual.
However, during the court proceedings, investigators recounted chilling details by the women of how Castro kept them chained in the basement, attempted to strangle one of the women with a vacuum cord, and repeatedly beat and starved Knight when she became pregnant five times. Castro also forced and threatened Knight to deliver Berry’s baby on Christmas Day in 2006.
He was sentenced August 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years on his guilty plea to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape. Knight was the only one of the three women who faced Castro during his sentencing, telling him she spent “11 years in hell.”
“Now your hell is just beginning,” Knight said. “I will overcome all that happened, but you’re going to face hell for eternity.”
The only time Castro reportedly seemed to get choked up was when he heard his house was going to be demolished, which it was earlier this summer. “The neighbors want to put this behind them,” says Cummins. “There is a lot of shame, anger, and frustration about how this happened and how they didn’t know this was going on.”
Cummins, the local councilman, says that the city has cleaned the lot and planted some flowers on the property but has not made a decision yet about what to do with it. One thing for certain, he says, is that they will not build a memorial. “It is clear by the residents on the street they just want a clean lot,” said Cummins. “They don’t want a reminder of what occurred. Even among the survivors at least two indicated they didn’t really want to see anything there or take part in the planning.”
Quinones said that his band has suffered from all the bad publicity surrounding Castro. “Things have been real slow,” he said. “We had a few cancellations because of it. We are still dealing with the situation and trying to get a positive image of the band. He passed away and there is a new life now. He is dead and there is nothing to talk about.”