‘I am not a monster,’ Ohio kidnapper tells court
Former school bus driver jailed for life after emotional testimony from victim
Ariel Castro (R) listens to his lawyer Craig Weintraub during his sentencing for kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, Ohio today. Photograph: Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters
Ariel Castro, the Cleveland bus driver who abducted, imprisoned and tortured three women, was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years with no parole today, after one of his victims confronted him, saying he had put her through 11 years of hell.
Castro (53) was alternately defiant and apologetic while showing no remorse in a rambling final statement to the court. Although he said he was sorry for his actions, he insisted “I am not a monster.” “If you asked my daughter she would say, my dad is the best dad in the world,” Castro said.
“All the sex was consensual,” Castro told the judge before sentencing. “The girls were not virgins. They had multiple sex partners before me.”
Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo, describing Castro as suffering from “extreme narcissism,” said the crimes were so extreme that the former school bus driver should never emerge from prison.
Castro had pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges including murder for beating and starving victim Michelle Knight to force her to miscarry during pregnancy.
The full sentence was life without parole plus 1,000 years, ensuring that Castro will never come out of prison.
Ms Knight (32) made a dramatic appearance in court before the sentencing and read a written statement saying that Castro had persecuted her beginning with her abduction in 2002 until she was freed on May 6th, 2013.
“Days turned into nights, nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity. I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn’t care,” Ms Knight said, choking back tears.
“I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” Ms Knight said of Castro.
Wearing leg shackles and dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit, Castro sparred with the judge over some of the charges and listened to the testimony and sentencing without expression.
Amanda Berry (27), Gina DeJesus (23) and Ms Knight, all went missing from the west side of Cleveland between 2002 and 2004. They were discovered on May 6th after neighbours heard Ms Berry’s cries for help from Castro’s home.
Ms Berry has a 6-year-old daughter fathered by Castro in captivity, according to DNA evidence.
The child had a “normal” life, Castro said, and Ms Berry “is out partying” after her release, so she must be okay. He described the little girl as his “miracle child.” The only point at which he became at all emotional was when he spoke about her. “I heard I can file for parental rights,” Castro told the judge at one point.
Judge responded that he would not be allowed any contact with the girl. Earlier in the hearing, prosecutors presented graphic evidence of the crimes, including a dollhouse-size replica of the home where he imprisoned the women.
There were also photos of the interior of the house showing chains, boarded up windows, numerous locks and curtains separating rooms.
A police officer described how Ms Knight had thrown herself into the arms of a police officer when she realized that he was there to rescue her.