That loud bang you heard was the gates of Hell closing behind Ariel Castro.
He hanged himself a few days ago in a prison cell in Ohio, and two official investigations have been planned. Each should take about 15 seconds.
Castro was the degenerate creep who kidnapped two teenage girls and a young woman, chaining them for years inside his Cleveland home. Last May, one of his victims escaped and ran for help.
Over the summer Castro was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. He had pleaded guilty to 937 charges in order to avoid the death penalty, which he later administered to himself using a bed sheet.
It was an excellent, though overdue, decision.
Most jail suicides don’t involve serial rapist-kidnappers. Most are petty criminals with substance issues or mental-health problems that have gone untreated.
The hideous nature of Castro’s crimes makes it obvious he was a nutjob, but he wasn’t one of those tragic cases who fell through the cracks of the system. He smilingly played along.
Like Ted Bundy, Castro had a diabolical talent for presenting himself as a regular, likeable guy while conducting a secret life of savage depravity. He drove a school bus, played guitar in local bands, tinkered with his beloved motorcycles.
The girls whom Castro abducted and enslaved between 2002 and 2004 were acquaintances of his own daughter, and it’s been reported that he attended community vigils for the missing. Neighbors and friends said he was always outgoing and helpful.
Nobody had a clue that his house was a padlocked horror chamber.
Three months before his arrest, Castro opened a Facebook account. According to the New York Times, he accumulated 41 “friends” and displayed an interest in an exotic breed of tiny dog known as Chinese Cresteds.
His posts gave no hint that he was a sexual psychopath.
Sample: “This morning I woke up to the sound a chirping cardinal. Yes! Come on spring!”
The Facebook Castro rhapsodized about the birth of his fifth grandchild, and “liked” several photos and messages with Christian themes. He was fond of tagging his remarks with “lol,” online shorthand for “laughing out loud.”
Not much laughter was being heard inside Castro’s house. One of the girls he’d kidnapped and continued to rape gave birth to a child, who was also held prisoner. Police say two other pregnancies ended in forced miscarriages, for which Castro was charged with aggravated murder.
At his sentencing hearing he gave various explanations for his crimes. He said he was addicted to porn. He also claimed he’d been abused as a young boy.
Then he said life really hadn’t been so awful for his captives. He asserted there was “harmony” in the house, and that the girls usually had been willing participants in the sex.
Said Castro: “People are trying to portray me as a monster, and I’m not a monster. I’m just sick.”
He might have been sick, but he was most definitely a monster. The two conditions don’t preclude one another.
After Castro’s death was announced, his lawyers called for an investigation, saying he’d been depressed and exhibited suicidal tendencies — not abnormal for a 53-year-old man who just got locked up forever.
Prison officials said the guards who found Castro hanging in his cell had been checking on him every 30 minutes, which is more than he deserved.
Any person who admits to committing such heinous acts should be allowed to do away with himself. The concept of keeping him alive just to make him serve out a life sentence is a twisted paradox, like something from a Monty Python sketch or a Kurt Vonnegut novel.
Some are saying Castro’s suicide was cowardly, but his motives are irrelevant. A streak of cowardice would be the least odious of his multiple character flaws.
You can still feel sorry for his family members, who seemed genuinely anguished to learn of his dark side, but the cold truth is that it’s hard to find a downside to his final act.
“Good riddance” is the prevailing sentiment in Ohio and elsewhere. All of us can think of other fiends who should’ve chosen the same way out. Bundy, for example, would have saved Florida taxpayers the fortune it cost to drag him to the electric chair.
Castro’s death has spared his victims from future decades of imagining him at rest in a cell with his perverse fantasies or, worse, watching him do TV interviews to promote his latest court appeal.
Now those women have at least the beginning of an end.
Castro’s last Facebook visit, four days before he got caught, is the post of a man cheerfully pretending not to be a monster:
“Miracles really do happen. God is good. :)”
(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)
AFP Photo/Angelo Merendino