Ariel Castro sits in a Cleveland courtroom after pleading guilty to 937… (Tony Dejak / Associated…)
The family of Ariel Castro, who killed himself while serving jail time for kidnapping and torturing three women for a decade in Cleveland, has claimed his body while questions have arisen whether the horrific episode that shocked the nation might have been ended sooner.
The body of Castro, 53, was turned over on Friday morning to a funeral home selected by the family, Franklin County coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak told the Los Angeles Times. Gorniak had conducted the autopsy on Castro and ruled he had committed suicide by hanging.
Castro's body was found in his cell hanging by a bedsheet while he was in protective custody. Two state reviews are underway into the circumstances surrounding the death.
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No family members attended the transfer of the body, Gorniak said by telephone. There were no details on what final arrangements the family will choose.
Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years as part of a plea deal to avoid being executed. He entered a guilty plea to abducting three women and holding them in his Seymour Avenue home, where he tortured and repeatedly sexually abused them. “I'm not a monster. I'm sick,” he told the judge at sentencing.
The women -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- were taken separately between 2002 and 2004. They were rescued after Berry broke through a door at the Seymour Avenue house and shouted for help on May 6. Neighbors called police, who rescued the women, and Castro was arrested hours later.
During his interrogation by authorities, Castro told officials that there were missed opportunities to catch him before the escape.
Castro says in the video that he told Amanda Berry's mother that her daughter was OK. He says he made the call on Amanda Berry's cellphone, according to the interview obtained by NBC and first reported on the “Today” show on Friday.
“I think I said something … that I have her daughter and that she's OK, and that she's my wife now — something like that, you know, probably not the exact words,” he told investigators.
Castro then said that he hung up so that he and the mother never had a conversation. Castro also claimed that a camera at DeJesus' school should have caught his image before he kidnapped her. “You could have broke the case right then and there,” he told authorities in the video.
A friend visiting the house noticed sounds from a television in the room occupied by Knight, and that worried Castro.
“Was it a close call?” an investigator asked. “Yeah,” Castro replied.
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