Michelle Knight confronts Ariel Castro in court as emotional case ends (+video)
At the sentencing hearing Thursday in Cleveland, Ariel Castro made a rambling statement, and Michelle Knight delivered a victim impact statement. Amanda Berry was represented in court by her sister.
[Updated 3:30 p.m. EDT] Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who kidnapped three women and then imprisoned and tortured them in his home for a decade, was sentenced Thursday to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years.Skip to next paragraph
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Last Friday, Mr. Castro accepted a plea agreement that spares him the death penalty. He pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts of kidnapping, rape, and assault, among other charges. The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004 and were rescued in early May.
“There is no place in this city, no place in this country, nowhere in this world for those who enslave or assault others,” Judge Michael Russo told Castro.
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The sentencing followed a rambling, nearly 20-minute testimonial from Castro, who apologized for his actions but insisted they resulted from sexual abuse in his childhood. He said he was subsequently addicted to pornography, which he suggested warped his ability to control his behavior.
“I’m sick. My sexual problems have been so bad on my mind that I’ve become impulsive,” he said.
While Michelle Knight, one of the three women, sat not far behind him in the courtroom, Castro denied beating the women. He described his household as one of “harmony” and said he was trying to maintain “a normal family.” He added that all the sex with the women was consensual and that “many times, the women would ask me for sex – many times.”
“I’m not trying to make excuses,” he said. “I know I’m 100 percent wrong. But they’re trying to say I’m a violent person. I’m not a violent person.”
Judge Russo responded to Castro’s statement by suggesting he did not understand the nature of his crimes. “You say you had a happy household, but I’m not sure there is anyone in America who would agree with you. You have extreme narcissism, and it seems rather pervasive,” he said.
Ms. Knight provided a victim impact statement. She said that she missed her son, who was born before her captivity, and wondered if she would ever see him alive again.
“I looked inside my heart and I would see my son, and I cried every night. I was so alone,” she said. “Days never got shorter, days turned into nights, nights turned into days, years turned into eternity.”
She addressed Castro directly, telling him he was a hypocrite for attending church services every Sunday and then “going home to torture” the women afterward.
“I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all of this that happened, and you will face hell in eternity. You will die a little every day as you think about 11 years and atrocities you inflicted on us,” she said. “I can forgive you, but I can’t ever forget.”
She added, “Writing this statement gave me strength to be a stronger woman and knowing there is more good than evil.”
Beth Serrano read a statement on behalf of her sister Amanda Berry, who is another of the three women. She told the judge that Ms. Berry was concerned about how public interest in the case could affect the 6-year-old daughter she conceived with Castro by rape.
“Amanda did not control a lot of things for a long time. Please let her have control over this so she can protect her daughter,” Ms. Serrano said.
Gina DeJesus, the third victim, did not appear in court, nor did she send a representative to speak on her behalf.
In the minutes leading up to the sentencing, and while Russo announced the sentencing itself, a dialogue between Castro and Russo was ongoing. When Russo mentioned the aggravated murder charge related to the five miscarriages that Castro forced upon Knight, Castro interrupted.