The sordid tale of Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro has taken another lurid turn, with officials saying his death may have been caused by autoerotic asphyxiation and a coroner insisting it was suicide.
The coroner was the same one who did the autopsy on Castro, who died last month aged 53 — a month after he was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for holding three women captive and treating them like sex slaves for a decade.
It was an abrupt ending to a sordid case that shocked the US and the world, with revelations of depravity and brutality carried out in an ordinary Cleveland home.
Details of his death, previously thought to be suicide, were released in a report with the results of an Ohio state prison internal investigation. Castro was found hanging from a hinge of the window of his cell by a sheet wrapped around his neck, with his pants and underwear pulled down to his ankles.
“The relevance of this finding is unclear,” the report concluded, adding that the details were “relayed to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for consideration of the possibility of autoerotic asphyxiation.”
However, late on Thursday, Franklin County Coroner Paula Gorniak said in a statement there was no sign that Castro had been sexually stimulated, local media outlets reported.
“I did the autopsy myself. I saw the ligature. I saw the pictures of the cell. It was a suicide,” CNN quoted the coroner as saying.
Gorniak said no one involved in the Ohio corrections report consulted her on the possible cause of death and she was not pleased.
Castro had left no note and given no indication of suicidal tendencies, the corrections report noted, adding that “no other immediate observations about the scene led to conclusions about the motivation for the self-inflicted death.”
The investigation also found that prison guards failed to check on Castro every 30 minutes as required and then falsified their logs.
However, video surveillance cameras showed that guards performed the required check at 8:45pm and again at 9:15pm when he was found hanged in his cell.
Castro’s crimes — committed when he imprisoned the women in a so-called “house of horrors” — led to an outpouring of national pity for the three victims: Amanda Berry, now 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32.