WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (AFP) – The former U.S. bus driver jailed for life for kidnapping and raping three young women he held as sex slaves for a decade was found hanged late Tuesday in “an apparent case of suicide” in his closely monitored cell, authorities said.
The death of Ariel Castro, who was required to be checked on every 30 minutes, brought an abrupt and dramatic ending to a sordid case that shocked America and the world with its revelations of systematic depravity and brutality.
JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Ohio prisons department, said that Castro was found hanging in a cell in which he was alone Tuesday night in a prison in the town of Orient.
“It does appear to be an apparent case of suicide,” Smith told AFP early Wednesday, declining to give further details.
But Cleveland TV station WOIO said he had not been on suicide watch. It said he had been at the Orient prison for only about 30 days. He was sentenced in August.
Officials tried in vain to resuscitate the 53-year-old, according to an earlier statement from the Ohio Department of Corrections.
“He was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals. Upon finding inmate Castro, prison medical staff began performing life-saving measures,” the statement by Smith said.
Castro, it said, was pronounced dead at 10:52 pm after he had been found hanging in his cell at 9:20 pm at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient.
“A thorough review of this incident is underway,” the statement said.
Blogs posted in the main Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, were merciless.
“Adios diablo, may you burn for 1,000 years, just like you were sentenced,” one said, alluding to his jail term of life plus 1,000 years.
“Why no picture of him hanging? Now THAT would be justice,” asked another.
“Must have used his clothing?” mused yet another.
Castro’s crimes — keeping the three young women in what came to be known as a house of horrors and raping and otherwise brutalizing them for around a decade — disgusted the country and led to an outpouring of national pity for the three victims. They were abducted separately between 2002 and 2004.
Their names are Amanda Berry, now 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32.
A cousin of Castro, Maria Castro Montes, told CNN that perhaps there was some good to come from the death of Castro. Maybe now, she said, the victims can truly can get on with their lives and not deal with periodic new details leaking about their respective nightmares.
“Maybe this is for the best,” Montes said. “Maybe this is the only way he will be out of the spotlight.”
She added of the women he tormented: “They would never find peace if he were still in prison.”