CLEVELAND (AP) — The Ohio man convicted of holding three women captive in his Cleveland house over a decade and raping them repeatedly was sentenced Thursday to life in prison.
Ariel Castro, 53, apologized to his victims in a rambling, defiant statement before he was sentenced. He blamed his sex addiction and others 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.”
The judge gave Castro the life term for the most serious count and was outlining additional time for the hundreds of other counts, but he didn’t immediately reveal the exact amount of the symbolic additional prison time.
Just before the sentencing, one of three women he kidnapped stood just feet away from Castro and confronted him, telling him his life was over.
“You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back,” said Michelle Knight. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”
Knight, 32, was the first woman abducted Castro in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son.
Judge Michael Russo dismissed Castro’s claims that the women lived a happy life with him.
“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.
The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each had accepted a ride from Castro.
They escaped to freedom May 6 when one of them, Amanda Berry, now 27, broke part of a door to Castro’s house in a tough Cleveland neighborhood and yelled to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested that evening.
The escape electrified Cleveland, where the missing women had been household names for years. But elation turn to despair as details of their ordeal emerged.
Prosecutors say the women were chained to a pole in the basement and a bedroom heater, and also chained in a van. One woman had a motorcycle helmet placed on her head while chained in the basement; later, when she tried to escape, she had a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her neck.
The woman were repeatedly raped while in captivity, and Berry had a baby fathered by Castro. Michelle Knight, the first victim abducted in 2002, delivered the baby on Christmas Day 2006 in the basement under threat of death from Castro, using a kiddie pool to avoid creating a mess.
The women have begun emerging from the privacy they had sought after they escaped to freedom.
Berry made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and the third victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house.
Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for their support.
At an earlier court hearing, Castro said he greatly missed his daughter, but the judge rejected a request to see her.
Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus.