Ohio abductions: Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro found hanged in prison cell

Lawyer blames jail for not taking precautions after he was taken off suicide watch in June

Los Angeles

Ariel Castro, the Ohio man sentenced to life plus 1,000 years for the kidnap and rape of three women, whom he kept captive at his Cleveland home for a decade, has committed suicide after one month in prison.

The Franklin County Coroner’s Office said that Castro, 53, had hanged himself with a bed sheet. He was found in his cell at 9.20pm as prison staff made their rounds at the Correctional Reception Centre outside Columbus, the state capital, where he had been since 5 August.

Prison medical staff tried to resuscitate him before he was taken to the Ohio State University Medical Centre, where he was pronounced dead shortly before 11pm. His cousin, Maria Castro-Montes, told CNN that she cried when she heard the news. “It was just shock and part of it was even relief in hopes that now this will just end all of it,” she said. “I just hope the victims can move past this now.”

Castro’s lawyer, Craig Weintraub, said he was “stunned” to hear of his client’s death, and that more precautions ought to have been taken to prevent a suicide attempt.

When he was jailed, Castro was put on suicide watch and checked by staff every 10 minutes. This ended in June, though he was still monitored every 30 minutes. The Ohio Department of Corrections is expected to conduct an investigation to determine whether anything further could have been done to prevent Castro’s suicide.

Mr Weintraub said he had recently been denied a request to have his client evaluated by a psychologist. Some will welcome Castro’s death, he said, as “a happy ending to this story… But we’re in a civilised society and no one should really be celebrating this.”

In July, Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, apparently so that he could avoid the death penalty.

Between 2002 and 2004, he snatched three young women – Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus – from the streets of Cleveland and imprisoned them at his home, where he repeatedly raped and assaulted them.

He is believed to have starved and beaten Ms Knight to induce miscarriages after she became pregnant several times. He also fathered a daughter, now six years old, with Ms Berry. The girl escaped with her mother and the other two women in May, after Ms Berry’s cries for help were heard by neighbours while Castro was out.

After Castro’s arrest, the house was searched and an apparent suicide note written by Castro in 2004 was found. Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said he believed the note was simply a plea for sympathy.

The three women are aware of their former captor’s death, but will not be commenting. Jackie Figaro Roman, an aunt of Ms DeJesus, said the women were experiencing a “mixture of emotions”: “Gina is a little confused. But [they] won’t have to think about him because he’s not around any more.”

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