Ariel Castro Trial / Last Word

By Seewer, John | The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN), August 2, 2013 | Go to article overview

Ariel Castro Trial / Last Word


Seewer, John, The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)


CLEVELAND Standing before the man who kidnapped her and raped her for a decade, Michelle Knight described how the world had changed in the three months since they last saw each other. The captive, she said, was now free and the oppressor would be locked away forever to "die a little every day."

Ariel Castro's fate had been determined long before he was sentenced Thursday to life in prison plus 1,000 years. But Knight's words in a crowded courtroom put a final seal on the kidnapping case that horrified the nation and subjected three young women to years of torment in Castro's ramshackle house.

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

A short time later, the 53-year-old former school bus driver apologized to his victims briefly in a rambling, defiant statement. He repeatedly blamed his sex addiction, his former wife 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 sentence was a foregone conclusion after Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault. A deal struck with prosecutors spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving Knight until she miscarried.

During her statement, Knight was just a few feet from Castro, seeing him for the first time since her rescue in May from the house that Castro turned into a prison with a makeshift alarm system and heavy wooden doors covering the windows.

"I will live on," she said. "You will die a little every day."

The three 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 May 6 when Amanda Berry, now 27, broke part of a door to Castro's house in a tough Cleveland neighborhood and yelled for help. Castro was arrested that evening.

The escape electrified Cleveland, where photos of the missing women still hung on utility posts. Elation turn to despair as details of their ordeal emerged.

Prosecutors on Thursday detailed Castro's repeated sexual assaults, how he chained the women and denied them food or fresh air.

They displayed photos that gave a glimpse inside the rooms where the women lived. Stuffed animals lined the bed and crayon drawings were taped to the wall where Berry lived with her young daughter who was fathered by Castro. But in the same room, the window was boarded shut and door knobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks.

Another room shared by Knight and Gina DeJesus had a portable toilet and a clock radio and several chains.

Prosecutors said the women were chained to a pole in the basement and a bedroom heater. …

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