Ariel Castro suicide: could his death have been prevented?

Castro's lawyer says prison should have done more but psychologist insists his death was unforeseeable

LAST UPDATED AT 11:15 ON Thu 5 Sep 2013

THE lawyer for Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, who hanged himself on Tuesday night, has said more should have been done to prevent his suicide.

Castro, who repeatedly raped and abused three women locked away in his home for a decade, hanged himself with a bed sheet just a month after he was sentenced to life plus 1,000 years.

The Ohio Department of Corrections is expected to investigate whether anything further could have been done to prevent his death.

Castro's lawyer, Craig Weintraub, claims he recently requested an independent forensic psychologist to evaluate his client but the authorities would not allow it. "If he was suicidal, he should have been under stricter protection," he told CNN.

But Dr Phillip Resnick, the psychiatrist who passed Castro as fit for trial, has said the suicide was "not something foreseeable" and that Castro did not "convey suicidality at all" to him. "It's possible that he had a suicidal desire and covered it," Resnick told 19 Action News. But Resnick believes it was more likely triggered by "some new stressful events".

Others have pointed out that police found a suicide note written by Castro in 2004 while searching his house. It was dismissed by prosecutors during the trial as simply a plea for sympathy.

But suicide expert Lindsay Hayes told CBS News: "It was only a matter of time. Someone who had been convicted of such a heinous and despicable crime, who was going to spend the rest of his life in prison - I wasn't surprised."

Castro was taken off suicide watch in June, just a month after he was arrested, and put into protective custody where he was checked on every 30 minutes. Suicide watch would have been much more restrictive, says Hayes, who wrote the National Study of Jail Suicide, a report on prison suicides across America.

Inmates have their possession taken away, wear smocks made of material that is difficult to tear and are usually kept under 24-hour observation or at least checked every 10 to 15 minutes. But Hayes added: "You can't keep someone on suicide watch for the rest of his life."

Dr Erik Roskes, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and an expert in prison mental health issues, said Castro "probably presented a pretty high ongoing risk of suicide because of the hopelessness of his situation". But he said it can be difficult to tell whether an inmate on suicide watch who says he is feeling better is "actually less depressed, or planning a suicide and wants less supervision".

Meanwhile, Castro's three victims – Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus – have said they will not be commenting on their captor's death. A relative of DeJesus told the Daily Mail they were experiencing a "mix of emotions".

Ariel Castro suicide: Ohio prison authorities investigate hanging

PRISON authorities in Ohio are investigating how Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man jailed for life for kidnapping three women and keeping them imprisoned in his home for a decade, was able to commit suicide in prison.

Castro's lifeless body was found yesterday at 9.20pm local time at a prison in Orient, Ohio. Medical staff tried to revive him with CPR, the New York Post reports, but he was pronounced dead on arrival at hospital. It is understood he hanged himself.

The 53-year-old was not on suicide watch, but he was kept in isolation and was checked on every 30 minutes.

Castro's brother-in-law, Juan Alicea, told CNN that the family were notified by a prison officer at around 1.00am this morning. He said they were angry that they learned about his death from media reports first.

Castro's crimes were discovered in May this year when Amanda Berry, one of the three women he had been holding, managed to escape and raise the alarm.

On 26 July, as part of a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty, he admitted to 937 counts of rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder – the latter because of the five miscarriages he induced by beating and starving Michelle Knight after impregnating her.

Knight was the only one of Castro's victims to ultimately face him in court. At his sentencing she told him: “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all that happened, but you're going to face hell for eternity.”

He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole, plus 1,000 years, and in early August his house on Seymour Avenue, Cleveland was destroyed.

Ohio Department of Correction spokeswoman JoEllen Smith, who confirmed that Castro has been kept in protective custody where prisoners are checked every half-hour, said: "A thorough review of this incident is underway."

Ariel Castro: 'house of horrors'demolished

THE Cleveland house where three women were held hostage for a decade by Ariel Castro has been demolished.

Video footage shows an excavator smashing through the house yesterday morning. One of the victims, Michelle Knight, and the families of the other two victims – Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus – watched as the house was brought to the ground.

Knight told reporters that the demolition would bring hope for families of other missing people. It also made money for charity: around $22,000 was found in a washing machine inside the house. According to Fox News, it was given to charity after the three victims refused to take it.

Berry reportedly wanted a number of items from the house before it was torn down, including pictures drawn by her daughter. Other items were also retrieved by Castro's family, who said the demolition was part of the "healing process".

Neighbours said they were glad not to have to look at the "house of horrors" any longer. Local residents had previously threatened to burn it down if the authorities did not take action.

The house - 2207 Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio – was listed on a real estate website in May, valued at $77,000, more than double an estimate made the previous year. But it was torn down as part of a plea deal that spared Castro a possible death sentence and forced him to turn over the deeds.

He was sentenced last week to life in prison plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to dozens of charges, including rape and kidnap.

Once the debris was taken away the area was seeded with grass and flowers, with residents hoping that it will be made into a garden or small park. A local company carried out the demolition free of charge.

As The Week reported in May, the destruction of Castro's home is typical in cases when neighbours cannot cope with the legacy of a shocking crime. Ian Huntley's home in Soham and the Manchester home of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley are among other high-profile houses-turned-crime-scenes to be destroyed in the past.
Ariel Castro: could Cleveland kidnapper be a psychopath? 05/08/2013

EXPERTS have rejected Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro's claims that he is "sick" rather than a "monster", with some suggesting he is refusing to take responsibility for his crimes and could even be a psychopath.

In a statement to court on Friday as he was sentenced to life in prison, Castro blamed his crimes on sex addiction and claimed that the three women he kidnapped and held captive for more than a decade - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – had lived happily with him.

But speaking to America's CBC News, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Saathoff said Castro had "no psychiatric illness whatsoever". Other experts including Jim Van Allen, a former manager of the Ontario Provincial Police criminal profiling unit, agreed that Castro, 53, is not mentally ill.

"Whatever hard knocks he's had in life, whatever disadvantages he's had, he has chosen to go this route. No one chooses to be schizophrenic and have hallucinations and everything else", Van Allen said.

Instead retired FBI criminal profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole suggested Castro could be a psychopath. "Psychopathy's not a mental illness, it's a personality disorder and it's distinguished by a stunning lack of conscience — no remorse or empathy for what they do, she said. "They're very arrogant individuals."

Shortly before Castro was sentenced on Friday, he was confronted by on of his three victims, Michelle Knight, 32, who read a personal statement to court. She told her former captor she spent 11 years in "hell" after he kidnapped her.

"You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back," she said. "Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity."

Earlier, documents released ahead of the sentencing hearing revealed that Castro had attached chains to his captives' ankles and forced them to live like "prisoners of war". The memorandum, put together by the prosecution, outlined dramatic details about the decade-long imprisonment of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - and revealed that the victims kept diaries recording their horrific experience.

Ariel Castro: I’m no monster, says Cleveland kidnapper 02/08/13

CLEVELAND kidnapper Ariel Castro yesterday claimed he was “sick” but “not a monster” as he was sentenced to life in prison without parole plus 1,000 years, Sky News reports.

Speaking during yesterday’s sentencing hearing, Castro told the court that the three women he kept imprisoned for a decade - Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - lived happily with him. He blamed a sex addiction for his actions.  

"I just hope they find it in their hearts to forgive me and do some research on people who have addictions, and see how addictions take over their lives," he said.

Shortly before the sentencing he was confronted by one of his victims, Michelle Knight, 32, who read a personal statement to court. She told her former captor she spent 11 years in “hell” after he kidnapped her.

"You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back," she said. "Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity."

Knight did not look at Castro as she read out the pre-prepared statement.

Earlier, documents released ahead of the sentencing hearing revealed that Castro had attached chains to his captives' ankles and forced them to live like "prisoners of war”. The memorandum, put together by the prosecution, outlined dramatic details about the decade-long imprisonment of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight - and revealed that the victims kept diaries recording their horrific experience.

"The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war," the memo revealed.  

Castro used the cold of the basement and heat of the loft as a means of punishing them, it said. On finding out that Knight was pregnant, Castro put her on a diet of tea and made her "perform 'knee bends' and jumping jacks", according to the filing. He also kicked and jumped on her stomach to try to terminate the pregnancy.

The three women eventually escaped on 6 May this year after Berry was able to reach the front door and alert neighbours.

Castro last week pleaded guilty to 937 charges brought against him, including kidnapping and rape, so that he could avoid the death penalty. · 

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