The Cleveland school bus driver who abducted, imprisoned and repeatedly raped three women was sentenced on Thursday to life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years, after one of his victims confronted him and said he had put her through 11 years of hell.
Ariel Castro, 53, apologized to his victims, but was mostly defiant, verbally sparring with the judge during a court hearing as he sought to blame his actions on a sexual obsession and having been abused as a child.
“I am not a monster,” he told the court in a rambling statement before sentencing.
The women, along with a six-year-old girl Castro fathered, were rescued from his fortress-like house on May 6, after nine to 11 years of captivity.
“If you asked my daughter, she would say: ‘My dad is the best dad in the world,’” Castro said.
“All the sex was consensual,” he said. “The girls were not virgins. They had multiple sex partners before me.”
Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo described Castro as suffering from “extreme narcissism,” and said his crimes were so severe that he should never emerge from prison. Castro had pleaded guilty to hundreds of charges, including murder under a fetal homicide law for beating and starving victim Michelle Knight to force her to miscarry.
When Russo brought up the murder charge in court, Castro said he was not a violent person and had pleaded guilty to murder only to spare the victims a long legal process.
“I am not a murderer,” he said, as he stood with his legs shackled.
Knight, 32, made a dramatic appearance in court before the sentencing and read a statement that Castro had persecuted her, starting with her abduction in 2002, until May 6, 2013, the day she was freed.
“Days turned into nights, nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity. I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn’t care,” Knight said, choking back tears.
“I spent 11 years of hell. Now your hell is just beginning,” Knight said of Castro.
Earlier in the hearing, prosecutors presented graphic evidence of the crimes, including a dollhouse-size replica of the house where the women were imprisoned.