Convicted Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years

CLEVELAND - Ariel Castro will spend the rest of his life in prison.

The convicted kidnapper was sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years for holding captive and raping three women in his Cleveland home for nearly a decade.

"I am not a monster. I'm sick," Castro said Thursday, also denying he was violent and calling himself a "happy person inside."

Despite pleading guilty to 937 counts, including aggravated murder, Castro vehemently told the judge, "I never killed anyone and I am not murderer."

He later boldly called out the women, saying they do not look tortured but "normal," using YouTube video of Amanda Berry at RoverFest Saturday as an example.

Castro said he was sorry to the women, their family, the city of Cleveland, and state of Ohio but then also blamed his actions on an addiction to pornography. He called sex he had with the women "consensual," despite conviction on rape charges, and his home a place of harmony.

"True judgment day is when God comes to judge me," Castro said. "I don't know how he's going to judge me."

Judge Michael Russo laid down his judgment in his final remarks and sentencing.

"You don't deserve to be out in the community. You're too dangerous. In your mind, you're a victim," Russo said.

One of the survivors of Castro's captivity and abuse, Michelle Knight, gave an emotional victim impact statement.

"I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell's just beginning," Knight said to Castro expressing that he deserves to spend life in prison and the death penalty would be easier. "I will not let you define me or affect who I am."

Knight called Gina DeJesus her "teammate," nursing her back to health when she was "dying from his (Castro's) abuse." She described the long days, years that felt like eternity and how much she missed her son, who was two and a half years old at the time she was taken.

The judge thanked Knight for her "remarkable restraint" while Castro spoke.

Beth Serrano, Amanda Berry's sister, said Amanda is grateful the case is over and wants to thank the people who have supported her.

Sylvia Colon, Gina DeJesus' cousin, spoke on her behalf.

"She lives not as a victim but as a survivor," Colon said about Gina. To Castro, Colon said a few words in Spanish.

Graphic details about years of abuse in captivity were revealed.

A forensic psychiatrist called the scope of Castro's crimes "unprecedented." Dr. Greg Saathoff said Castro would likely go back to criminal ways if he ever regained freedom.

In a 2004 letter presented as evidence, Castro writes, "I am a sexual predator." FBI Special Agent Andrew Burke affirmed the Castro expressed remorse in the letter.

Burke showed numerous photos of the Seymour Avenue home of Castro, including chains in the room Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight shared, as well as alarms Castro placed on the front door of his home.

BCI Forensic Scientist Joshua Barr said chains totaling 99 feet 3 inches and weighing 92.28 pounds, as well as a .357 magnum revolver, were found in Castro's home.

Castro told Dave Jacobs, a detective for the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department Violent Crimes Task Force, that he "showed the gun to the girls as a form of control." He also told Jacobs he gave the women an empty revolver to shoot him.

Why did Castro commit his crimes? Jacobs said Castro's response was purely to satisfy his sexual needs.

Andrew Harasimchuk, detective for Cleveland Police Sex Crimes Unit, said all three women described a repeated pattern of sexual, emotional and physical abuse by Castro. Harasimchuk determined, after an investigation, that Castro acted alone, restraining the women by chains or locking them away.

The women explained to Harasimchuk how they were kidnapped. A common connection was a relationship with one of Castro's daughters used to lure them.

Dr. Gerald Maloney, a doctor at MetroHealth Medical Center, said all three women appeared emotionally distraught when they arrived at the hospital.

He said Knight chose not to have a male physician. She had several bruises, which indicated she underwent physical abuse, according to Maloney.

All three related to him that they were raped.

Dr. Frank Ochberg described Stockholm syndrome in the context of the case of these women.

"They were deprived of family, home, of 10 years in which you make your transition to being a young woman to a woman," Ochberg said.

He called Knight an "extraordinary human being," who brought life to the child of Amanda Berry, helping in the delivery and giving her breaths.

In terms of the women's future, Ochberg said he wanted to be on the side of optimism and hope but that the damage that was done does not go away.

"You can't turn off 10 years of sustained…abuse like a light switch," FBI Special Agent Andrew Burke said about the women.

Cleveland patrol woman Barbara Johnson, one of the first officers at the scene when the three women were rescued on May 6, was the first witness to take the stand at 9:47 a.m.

Johnson said the women were "thin, pale and scared." Knight jumped

into Johnson's arms, she told the courtroom, and just kept repeating "you saved us."

Castro threatened to kill Knight if Berry's baby wasn't born, Knight told Johnson. Knight and DeJesus also told Johnson that Castro starved and abused Knight to end pregnancies.

Craig Weintraub, one of Castro's attorneys, claimed Castro has a mental illness but it did not affect his ability to understand the court proceedings.

Blaise Thomas, assistant prosecuting attorney, said evidence and statements were presented "for the purpose of supporting the plea contract in the anticipation that in the end, the series of crimes and horrendous offenses justify the recommended sentence agreed to by the parties."

Castro reached a plea deal to avoid the death penalty.

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