Ariel Castro has been sentenced following a guilty plea on 977 charges, including kidnapping, rape, aggravated murder, attempted murder and assault. The case stems from the abductions of Michelle Knight in 2002, Amanda Berry in 2003, and Gina DeJesus in 2004 when they were aged, 21, 16, and 14, respectively, in Cleveland, Ohio. All three women were kept in captivity and tortured until they were rescued on May 6, 2013.
Castro’s guilty plea was part of a deal to keep him off death row. He will have to serve a life sentence without the possibility of parole, plus 1,000 years. In addition, Michael Russo, the judge in the case has fined him $100,000 and ordered for his property to be seized by Cuyahoga County.
On May 6, 2013 Berry was able to escape the house along with her daughter, a six-year-old child fathered by Castro during her captivity. After she was able to obtain help, Castro was arrested that same day, and two days later charged with four counts of kidnapping, and three counts of rape. This was later changed, in part because the victims kept journals of their ordeal, to 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, and 2 counts of aggravated murder, among others. The murder charges stem from him beating, and depriving of food Michelle Knight in order to induce miscarriage while she was pregnant. Castro had requested custody rights of the child he fathered with Berry; but the court refused him.
All three women who Ariel Castro kidnapped and raped have jointly released a Youtube video thanking their supporters, and one of them spoke at the hearing at which Castro was sentenced, saying “You took 11 years of my life away. … I spent 11 years in hell. Now, your hell is just beginning.”
Marisol Alicea, Castro’s sister had said that Castro would give a statement at his sentencing hearing which would show “the other side of Ariel Castro … not the monster that everyone thinks he is,” however, she said several family members, including her, would not be present for it. Several members of Castro’s family have spoken out against him, including two brothers, who were initially arrested along with Castro as suspects in the case. While being interrogated by police, Castro confessed that his brothers had not been involved in his crimes. All three victims knew family members of Castro, and trusted him, which is how he was able to entice them into his house.
During the hearing, Castro’s statement tried to justify several of his actions. He said that the sex that he forced on his victims was consensual, and that he had not beaten them, only prevented them from leaving the house where he kept them captive. Castro also took issue with the murder charges, saying that there was no evidence that those incidents had happened. The judge reminded him that he had already pled guilty. Castro replied to this that he had done so in order to spare his victims from testifying in court.
In handing down the sentence, Russo said “There is no place in this city, there is no place in this country, there is no place in this world for those who enslave others,” making clear his desire that Ariel Castro is not able to leave prison for the remainder of his natural life as consequence of kidnapping and raping the three women he victimized.