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Interrogation video gives Ariel Castro a voice from beyond the grave

September 06, 2013|By Michael Muskal

Not even death has been able to end the horrific case of Ariel Castro, convicted of kidnapping and torturing three women for more than a decade in his house in Cleveland. Just days after his body was found hanging in a single-occupancy cell in an Ohio prison, his voice from beyond the grave is raising questions about the events that had mesmerized the nation since spring.

Four hours of video from the police interrogation of Castro after his arrest in May were obtained and released by NBC on Friday. In the questioning, Castro discusses how he thought authorities would capture him earlier in the ordeal he inflicted on the women. In letters and comments, Castro also raised the possibility of suicide; he committed suicide Tuesday night, just a month into a prison term guaranteed to keep him behind bars for the rest of life without any chance of parole.

Castro, 53, was found hanging by a bed sheet and was pronounced dead about an hour later. He had been in protective custody, meaning he was kept in a single-occupancy cell and observed by corrections officials every 30 minutes. That status is less stringent than a suicide watch, which includes constant monitoring, making it more difficult for an inmate to kill himself.

Ohio officials have launched two reviews of the circumstances surrounding Castro’s death and whether he received proper medical care. Castro’s family, which claimed the former bus driver’s body Friday, has called for a complete probe of the death and whether it could have been prevented. The reviews are to be completed by the end of the month.

Castro was sentenced in August to life in prison plus 1,000 years as part of a plea deal that saved him from a possible death sentence. He admitted to kidnapping, raping and torturing three women -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- at his Cleveland home. The house, taken over by officials as part of the plea deal, has been demolished and the site could become a community park.

Castro's captives disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004. They escaped from Castro's house May 6 after Berry broke through a screen door and shouted at neighbors who called police. The three women, along with Berry’s 6-year-old daughter fathered by Castro, were rescued.

In the video, Castro described how his daughter, who was born in the house, begged him to stop locking all the doors. Castro said he left a bedroom door open, which allowed Berry to make it to the front door. “I know I let my guard down," Castro said.

Castro was arrested almost immediately after the women escaped. The video was shot during questioning hours after the arrest, NBC said.

The interrogation offers a glimpse inside the mind of a man who described himself as sick, but not a monster. During his court appearances, he stressed his emotional and mental ailments including having been sexually assaulted as a child, which he claimed caused him to become addicted to pornography and to seek to act out his sexual impulses.

Castro even claimed there had been harmony and even some degree of happiness in the house. Prosecutors insist that Castro was just a narcissist and viewed what he had done through the lens of his own self-absorption.

In his interviews, Castro explained events that he thought could have resulted in his capture. In one, he used Berry’s cellphone to call her mother.

“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 went on to say that he hung up before he could have a conversation with the mother.

Castro also said authorities missed opportunities to catch him while he held the kidnapped women, who were ages 14, 16 and 20 when taken. Cameras at the school of DeJesus should have caught his image 15 minutes before she was abducted in April 2004.

"You could have broke the case right then and there," he said.

Castro abducted Knight in 2002. He said a girlfriend was visiting him at the house and noticed that a television was on in the room Knight used.

"She saw that I had a TV on in the upstairs room," Castro said to investigators. “And she says, 'What is that? You have a TV on up there?' And my heart started beating, and I was like, 'OK, she's probably catching onto something.'"

"Was it a close call?" an investigator asked.

"Yeah," Castro replied.

Investigators have said before that their search of Castro's house found what officials believed was a suicide note, stating, "I want to put an end to my life and let the devil deal with me." During the recorded interrogation, he notes thoughts of suicide as well: "I just want to crash through the window," he said.

But that note is just another example of Castro’s narcissism and his desire for sympathy, Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty argued in a statement after Castro had killed himself.

“These degenerate molesters are cowards,” the prosecutor said. “They con and capture vulnerable children. This man couldn’t take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade.”

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