August 2, 2013

Cleveland kidnapper: 'I'm not a monster'

As he's sentenced to life without parole, Ariel Castro blames his three kidnappings on a sex addiction, his former wife and even the FBI.

The Associated Press

CLEVELAND - An Ohio man convicted of imprisoning three women in his house and raping them repeatedly for a decade blamed his actions on a sex addiction and said he was "not a monster" as he was sentenced Thursday to life without parole plus 1,000 years.

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Ariel Castro listens during the sentencing phase of his trial on Thursday in Cleveland. Defense attorney's Craig Weintraub, left, and Jaye Schlachet sit beside Castro.

The Associated Press

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Michelle Knight sits in the courtroom during a break in Ariel Castro's sentencing hearing Thursday in Cleveland. Knight is the only victim to testify and Thursday was the first time she'd been seen publicly since her rescue from the house where she was held captive for 10 years.

The Associated Press

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Ariel Castro, 53, apologized to his victims before he was sentenced. He blamed a sex addiction, his former wife and even the FBI for not thoroughly investigating the abductions while claiming most of the sex was consensual and that the women were never tortured.

"These people are trying to paint me as a monster," he said. "I'm not a monster. I'm sick."

Just before the sentencing, one of three women he kidnapped stood within feet of Castro and told him his life was over.

"You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back," Michelle Knight said. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning."

Knight, 32, was the first woman Castro abducted in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son. Relatives of the other two victims spoke on their behalf.

At one point in Castro's statement, he said, "There was harmony in that home," a claim Judge Michael Russo dismissed. "I'm not sure there's anyone in America that would agree with you," he said.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault. A deal struck with prosecutors Friday spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving a pregnant victim until she miscarried.

During his statement, Castro pointed out that the FBI talked with his daughter, who was friends with one of the women he kidnapped.

"The FBI let these girls down when they questioned my daughter," he said. "They failed to question me."

He also said he never had any trouble until he met his wife, who has since died. "I was never abusive until I met her," he said.

The judge told Castro that there was no place in the world for people who enslave others.

"These women never gave up hope," Russo said. "In fact, they prevailed."

As Castro was led away, Knight watched, smiling.

Thursday's hearing gave prosecutors a chance to detail some of Castro's assaults and law enforcement a chance to describe the jury-rigged prison he built in his ramshackle home.

FBI agent Andrew Burke said Castro created a makeshift alarm system and chained the women inside bolted bedrooms.

Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside with heavy closet doors and doorknobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks, he said. The house was divided in ways to make it more secure and to hide the existence of rooms, he said.

Burke also testified that Castro would occasionally pay his victims after raping them. But he then would require them to pay him if they wanted something special from the store.

Responding to questions from prosecutors, Cleveland police detective Andrew Harasimchuk said the women all described being physically, sexually and emotionally assaulted for years. He said all three women were abducted after Castro offered them a ride and that each was chained in his basement and sexually assaulted within a few hours of being kidnapped.

Some horrific details of the women's ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. One woman was forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, had a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her neck.

Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced the same woman on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.

The women escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out the door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours. The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, has made a few televised comments. Knight appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

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A model of Ariel Castro's house in Cleveland is on display in the courtroom during the sentencing phase.

The Associated Press

  


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