Monster to 'rot in jail' for 1,000 years

Ariel Castro, 53, sits in the courtroom next to his attorney Jaye Schlachet (R) in Cleveland, Ohio July 26, 2013. 

UNITED STATES - The captor is now the captive.

Soon after the arrest of Ariel Castro in May, his brothers Onil and Pedro said they were duped by the "monster" who held three women hostage in the basement of his home for more than a decade.

They said the death penalty would be too easy for him and instead hope he "rots in jail", starved of food.

It seems that they have got part of their wish. On Friday, Castro, 53, accepted a plea deal under which he will serve a life sentence plus 1,000 years for the kidnap and rape of three women.

Ms Gina DeJesus, Ms Amanda Berry and Ms Michelle Knight disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

Each said they had accepted a ride from Castro, who remained friends with the family of one of the women and even attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.

Castro was said to have agreed to the deal - after initially pleading not guilty to all 937 counts against him - to spare himself the death penalty.

The former school bus driver blamed it all on his addiction to pornography.

In court, he seemed eager to tell the judge about what he called his "sexual problems". "My addiction to pornography and my sexual problems have really taken a toll on my mind," he said.

He also told Judge Michael Russo that he was abused as a child, but did not elaborate. But Dr Ellen Casper, a psychologist, said Castro's behaviour cannot be attributed to an addiction to porn, NewsNet5.com reported.

She said: "It's one thing to engage in a pornographic website or in a chat room for an adult who has no other psychiatric problems. But for someone like Castro... he probably has other diagnoses... "

The plea deal also means the three victims will not have to testify, Mail Online reported.

The judge asked him if he understood that he would die in prison and that there would never be a possibility of release from prison.

He replied: "There are some things I do not comprehend because of my sexual problems throughout the years. But I trust my lawyers and I understand my rights and the sentence."

Prosecutors said that if evidence of additional crimes came to light, Castro could still be indicted on future charges that included the death penalty.

Abducted, raped, locked up and no doctor available

The captivity of the three women - Ms Amanda Berry, 27, Ms Gina DeJesus, 23, and Ms Michelle Knight, 32, - was depraved beyond anybody's imagination.

Ms DeJesus was even a friend of Ariel Castro's daughter Arlene. Castro imprisoned her in his home along with Ms Berry and Ms Knight, and imprisoned them for his sexual pleasure.

Investigations revealed that Ms Knight became pregnant at least five times, and was then starved for up to two weeks and repeatedly punched in the stomach to induce miscarriages.

Castro fathered a daughter with Ms Berry. On the day the child was born, Christmas 2006, he raped one of the other women, who had helped deliver the baby. Ms Berry told authorities that she, her child, who is now six years old, and the other women never saw a doctor during their captivity.

The women managed to escape Castro's house on May 6. He was arrested within hours, AP reported.

Authorities said Castro's house will be torn down within a month using the more than US$20,000 (S$25,300) seized from him.

Happy to be home now

The victims are now moving on with their lives.

They released a joint statement on YouTube early this month thanking the people of Cleveland for their support. They also thanked them for respecting their privacy.

The 3½-minute video came two months after they were rescued from Ariel Castro's home, New York Daily News reported.

Said Ms Berry, who disappeared in 2003: "First and foremost, I want everyone to know how happy I am to be home with my family and friends. It's been unbelievable. It has been a blessing to have such an outpouring of love and kindness, I'm getting stronger each day and having my privacy has helped immensely."

Ms Dina DeJesus, 23, who went missing in 2004, thanked people for their support. She sat with her parents, Felix DeJesus and Nancy Ruiz, who also expressed gratitude to their community.

Ms Michelle Knight, 32, was in captivity the longest, after disappearing in 2002.

She said in a halting voice: "I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and my head held high and my feet firmly on the ground."

The trio have turned down media interview requests and want to maintain their privacy, according to a statement from the team of lawyers and crisis management experts helping them pro bono.


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