Ohio reviewing Ariel Castro’s prison cell suicide

  • By Thomas J. Sheeran And Andrew Welsh-Huggins Associated Press
  • Thursday, September 5, 2013 8:54am
  • Local NewsNation / world

CLEVELAND — Ohio’s prison system is reviewing how Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro — perhaps the most notorious figure behind bars in the state — managed to hang himself with a bedsheet while in protective custody.

Castro was a month into his life sentence for holding three women captive in his home for a decade when he committed suicide Tuesday night. Protective custody involves checks every 30 minutes.

Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr ordered two reviews Wednesday, less than a day after Castro was found in his cell and medical responders were unable to revive him.

One review will look at the suicide — normal in such cases — while the other is an examination of Castro’s circumstances and whether he received the proper medical and mental health care leading up to his suicide.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called for an investigation into Castro’s death as well as the question of whether inmates are getting the mental health treatment they need.

“As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be, the state has a responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and others,” ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link said in a statement.

Castro, 53, had been taken off suicide watch while in county jail and was in protective custody in prison, a status reserved for high-profile convicts who could be in danger from other inmates.

As part of that status, he was in a cell by himself being checked every 30 minutes at an inmate intake prison south of Columbus, said JoEllen Smith, a Rehabilitation and Correction Department spokeswoman.

Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead. State police are also investigating.

Tina Miller, whose cousin Amanda Berry was one of Castro’s victims, said Thursday in a telephone interview that the suicide showed Castro was not as strong a person as the three women he kidnapped, raped and imprisoned.

“Killing yourself, that’s not strength. Surviving it is strength, and that’s what them girls did — they survived it for 11, 10 and 9 years,” said Miller, of Lorain in northeast Ohio. “He took away a lot of their youth, he took away their identity. It’s just terrible.”

Residents in the Cleveland neighborhood where the three women were secretly imprisoned reacted with scorn and grim satisfaction to Castro’s death.

“He took the coward’s way out,” said Elsie Cintron, who lived up the street from the former school bus driver. “We’re sad to hear that he’s dead, but at the same time, we’re happy he’s gone, and now we know he can’t ask for an appeal or try for one if he’s acting like he’s crazy.”

Even the prosecutor joined in.

“This man couldn’t take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.

Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping and rape, in a deal to avoid the death penalty. “I’m not a monster. I’m sick,” he told the judge at sentencing.

Castro’s captives — Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight — disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20. They were rescued from Castro’s run-down house May 6 when Berry broke through a screen door.

Elation over the women’s rescue turned to shock as details emerged about their captivity. Castro fathered a child with Berry while she was being held. The girl was 6 when she was freed.

Investigators also disclosed that the women were bound with chains, repeatedly raped and deprived of food and bathroom facilities.

Miller said she hoped Castro’s death would allow her cousin’s daughter to move on more quickly — but she said she wouldn’t describe herself as glad he was dead.

“Nonetheless, he is still a human being. Nonetheless,” she said. “It is still a life, and I’m a firm believer in God. I wouldn’t dance on his grave. I couldn’t do something like that. I just think it’s a horrific situation, and for him to take his own life, that just says a lot of who he is, or was.”

Castro’s lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have a psychological examination of Castro done in jail before he was turned over to state authorities, his attorney, Jaye Schlachet, said Wednesday.

Michael Casey, director of the Suburban Law Enforcement Academy outside Chicago, said a notorious figure like Castro would have been more apt to be harmed by other inmates, citing the case of Jeffrey Dahmer, the Milwaukee cannibal who was slain behind bars in 1994.

He said that given the way Castro managed to hide his crimes for so long, he probably would have been able to conceal any suicidal tendencies from his jailers.

The prison where Castro hanged himself, a so-called reception center for newly arrived inmates, is crowded with nearly twice the 900 prisoners it was meant to hold, according to state figures.

Stress is high and assaults are up at the prison, said Tim Shafer, an official with the guards’ union, who added: “Just like out in the public, suicides happen, and you just can’t prevent every one of them.”

More in Local News

Everett district relents on eminent domain moving expenses

Homeowners near Bothell still must be out by April to make way for a planned new high school.

Their grown children died, but state law won’t let them sue

Families are seeking a change in the state’s limiting wrongful-death law.

Officials rule train-pedestrian death an accident

The 37-year-old man was trying to move off the tracks when the train hit him, police say.

Ex-Monroe cop re-arrested after losing sex crime case appeal

He was sentenced to 14 months in prison but was free while trying to get his conviction overturned.

Marysville hit-and-run leaves man with broken bones

The state patrol has asked for help solving an increasing number of hit-and-run cases in the state.

Everett man killed at bar had criminal history, gang ties

A bar employee reportedly shot Matalepuna Malu, 29, whose street name was “June Bug.”

There’s plenty to cheer in overdue capital budget

In Snohomish County, there’s money for a number of projects.

Parking a constant problem at Wallace Falls State Park

There’s a study under way on how to tackle that issue and others.

Number of flu-related deaths in county continues to grow

Statewide, 86 people have died from the flu, most of whom were 65 or older.

Most Read