Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

'I'm not a monster': Cleveland abductor

Man who held three women hostage over decade apologizes, blames others

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CLEVELAND -- The U.S. man convicted of holding three women captive in his house for over a decade and raping them repeatedly was sentenced Thursday to life without parole plus 1,000 years. He blamed an addiction to pornography and said, "I'm not a monster."

Ariel Castro, 53, had pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault.

Castro apologized, but he claimed most of the sex with the women was consensual. He blamed his wife for making him abusive, and he even blamed the FBI, which had questioned his daughter during the search for the women but didn't question him.

"These people are trying to paint me as a monster," he said. "I'm not a monster. I'm sick."

A deal struck with prosecutors Friday spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving a pregnant victim until she miscarried.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old.

They escaped May 6 when one of them, Amanda Berry, broke down part of the door to Castro's house and yelled to neighbours for help.

Castro said Thursday he knows what he did was wrong, but he's not a violent person and his captives asked for sex and weren't tortured.

Judge Michael Russo dismissed Castro's claims the women lived a happy life with him.

"I'm not sure there's anyone in America that would agree with you," he said.

The women described horrific conditions in the home, which Castro turned into a jury-rigged prison.

"You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back," Michelle Knight told Castro on Thursday. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this has happened, but you will face hell for eternity."

Knight said she missed her young son every day of her captivity.

Knight, 32, did not face Castro as she spoke, but he glanced towards her several times. She was the first woman he abducted in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son.

As Castro was led away, Knight watched, smiling.

FBI agent Andrew Burke said Castro turned his house into a prison by creating a makeshift alarm system and chaining the women inside bolted bedrooms.

Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside with heavy closet doors and doorknobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks, Burke said. The house was divided in ways to make it more secure and to hide the existence of rooms, he said.

One woman had a motorcycle helmet placed on her head while chained in the basement; later, when she tried to escape, she had a vacuum cleaner's cord wrapped around her neck.

A police officer who helped rescue the women said one was reluctant to come out of her room even when she saw the officers.

Berry had a baby fathered by Castro. Knight delivered the baby on Christmas Day 2006 in the basement under threat of death from Castro.

At an earlier court hearing, Castro said he missed his daughter, but the judge rejected a request to see her.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 2, 2013 A13

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