Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times
Ariel Castro apologized for imprisoning and sexually abusing three women in his Cleveland house for years. But he insisted he was not the monster that many people see.
“These people are trying to paint me as a monster,” Castro said on Thursday, in a rambling statement before Judge Michael J. Russo imposed a sentence of life in prison without any possibility of ever getting out.
“I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” Castro said.
The outcome of the sentencing hearing was never in doubt since Castro had accepted a plea deal last week. As part of the agreement, Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges but avoided the death penalty.
“You may think you are the victim,” Russo said during the televised sentencing. “But you are not a victim, you are a victimizer.”
Castro, 53, will die in prison. But for one of his victims, the sentence was still way too little and she said she wanted him to spend eternity in hell.
“You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back,” Michelle Knight told Castro in her first public appearance since being freed from captivity in May.
“I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.”
Knight, 32, was just feet away from Castro. Wearing eyeglasses and an orange prison jumpsuit, Castro looked at her several times as she spoke.
Castro then spoke on his own behalf, blaming an addiction to pornography and his own sexual abuse. He blamed some of his relatives and authorities. He also apologized to his victims and claimed the sex was consensual.
“We had a lot of harmony that went on in that home,” Castro said to a stunned court.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone in America that would agree with you,” Russo said.
Knight was the first woman abducted by Castro in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son.
During the hearing, which lasted almost four hours, the prosecution called witness after witness who described the house that Castro turned into a prison.
FBI agent Andrew Burke described the alarm system and how Castro had chained his victims. Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside, multiple locks were deployed on heavy doors.
Cuyahoga County sheriff’s Detective Dave Jacobs said he talked with Castro a few days after the women escaped and that Castro said, “I knew what I did was wrong.”
Under questioning by prosecutors, Cleveland police Detective Andrew Harasimchuk said that the women described a pattern of 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.
In addition to Knight, relatives of the other victims,Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, also spoke.
MICHELLE KNIGHT’S COMPLETE STATEMENT
“My name is Michelle Knight, and I would like to tell you what 11 years was like for me.
I missed my son every day. I wondered if I would ever see you again. He was only 2 ½ years old when I was tooken. I look inside my heart and I see my son.
I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day.
Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. The years turned into eternity.
I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn’t care. He tormented me, constantly, even on holidays.
Christmas was the most traumatic day because I never got to spend it with my son.
Nobody should ever have to go through what I went through or anybody else, not even the worstest enemy.
Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall. I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse. My friendship with her is the only thing that was good out of this situation. We said we would someday make it out alive, and we did.
Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn’t doing the same thing. You said, ‘At least I didn’t kill you.’
You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.
From this moment on I will not let you define me or affect who I am.
I will live on. You will die a little every day. As you think about the 11 years and the atrocities you inflicted on us, what does God think of you hypocritically going to church every Sunday, coming home to torture us.
Death penalty will be so much easier. You don’t deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison. I can forgive you but I will never forget. With the guidance of God, I will prevail and help others that have suffered at the hands of others. Writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman, and know that’s there’s more good than evil.
I know that there’s a lot of people going through hard times. But we need to reach out a hand and hold them and let them know that they’re being heard.
After 11 years, I am finally being heard and it’s liberating. Thank you all. I love you. God bless you.”