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WATCH LIVE: Castro says he's not "a monster"

WATCH LIVE: Castro says he's not

Watch the sentencing hearing courtesy of Channel 3 News:

(Cleveland) - The man accused of imprisoning three women in his Cleveland home and subjecting them to rapes and beatings for a decade will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Judge Michael Russo handed down the previously agreed to sentence of life with no parole, plus 1,000 years to Ariel Castro.

Before sentencing, Castro apologized to his victims, but also claimed most of the sex was consensual.

Castro also said he isn't a monster. He says he's sick and addicted to pornography. He says he didn't even plan the first kidnapping.

Castro says he knows what he did was wrong, but that he's not a violent person and that his captives asked for sex and weren't tortured.

The women described horrific conditions in the home, which Castro turned into a jury-rigged prison.

Castro spoke during his sentencing hearing less than a week after pleading guilty last week to 937 counts.

Kidnap victim Michelle Knight addressed Castro, saying she had 11 years of hell, but his hell is just beginning. Knight also said that the only good thing that came from her captivity was her friendship with Gina DeJesus. 

Amanda Berry's sister testified, saying they want to keep their privacy. Beth Serrano said that Berry's main goal now is protecting the daughter she had after being assaulted by Castro.

One of the first police officers on the scene after Amanda Berry escaped and called 911 says Michelle Knight leaped into their arms saying, "You saved us! You saved us!" Officer Barbara Johnson says they seemed pale and she though Knight was a little girl at first. Gina DeJesus seemed shy and afrain to leave.

Dr. Joe Maloney, an ER doctor at MetroHealth Medical Center, testified that all three women showed evidence of physical and mental abuse.

Cleveland Police Detective Andy Harasimchuk testified that Ariel Castro lured all three women into his car because they knew his children. Once he had them inside the house on Seymour Avenue, Castro restrained and began to sexually assault them. Harasimchuk says the assaults continued throughout their captivity.

BCI agent Joshua Barr discussed the gun and chains found in Castro's home. The chains were 99 feet long and weighed 92 lbs.  Castro used the chains to restraint Knight, Berry and DeJesus.

FBI Special Agent Andrew Burke discussed what he saw when he arrived at the scene on Seymour Avenue on May 6. He says the women needed clothing, shoes, a safe house and medical care. Their main focus was safety and security due to nature of the case.

Burke says the huge outpouring of support from around the world allowed for world-class care for the three victims. He also says he'll never forget when he first saw the women whose faces were so familiar.

Burke added, "You can't turn off 10 years of sustained abuse like a light switch." He says Castro would pay women after he'd had sex with them. Then Castro would make the women pay for things they requested from the store.

Burke says going through house was surreal and more than 1,000 photos were taken.

Burke says the house was fortified to keep people away from certain areas, including a porch swing blocking the base of the stairs to the second floor. He says Gina and Michelle shared bed in small room up there. Amanda and her daughter shared an adjoining room. The windows were boarded by heavy doors.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Deputy Dave Jacobs then took the stand and said, during interviews, that Castro referred to himself as a "sexual predator" and admitted he abducted the victims.

Jacobs says Castro admitted taking the women to "satisfy his sexual needs". Castro also admitted that he knew what he was doing was wrong. Castro also says he drove past his own daughter to get to Gina DeJesus.

Ariel Castro has said he wants to apologize and will do so at the end of the procedings. Victims Michelle Knight is also expected to address the court. The process could last up to five hours.

"The captor is now the captive," Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty said of the 53-year-old Castro.

The women's escape from Castro's home two months ago at first brought joy to the city where they had become household names after years of searches, publicity and vigils, then despair at revelations of their treatment.

Their rescue brought shocking allegations that Castro fathered a child with one of the women, induced five miscarriages in another by starving and punching her, and assaulted one with a vacuum cord around her neck when she tried to escape.

Castro told the judge he was addicted to pornography, had a "sexual problem" and had been a sexual abuse victim himself long ago.

He pleaded guilty to 937 counts in the deal, which sends him to prison for life without parole, plus 1,000 years. Prosecutors agreed to take a possible death penalty charge off the table.

Castro, wearing an orange prison jumpsuit and a bushy beard, was far more engaged than in previous court appearances when he mostly kept his head down and eyes closed. He answered the judge's questions in a clear voice, saying he understood that he would never be released from prison and adding that he expected he was "going to get the book thrown at me."

"I knew that when I first spoke to the FBI agent, when I first got arrested," he said.

Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico, said he could read and understand English well but had trouble with comprehension.

"My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind."

At the end of the 2 1/2-hour hearing, the judge accepted the plea and declared Castro guilty. 

The women said in a statement they were relieved by the conviction. They previously released a video thanking people for their love and support.



"They are satisfied by this resolution to the case, and are looking forward to having these legal proceedings draw to a final close in the near future," said the statement released on their behalf.

Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each said they had accepted a ride from Castro, who remained friends with the family of one of the women and even attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.

He was accused of repeatedly raping, beating and restraining the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van.

Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry, now 27, authorities said. On the day the child was born, Christmas 2006, Castro raped one of the other women, who had helped deliver the baby.

Berry told authorities that she, her child and the other women never saw a doctor during their captivity. Knight, now 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved and repeatedly punched her.

The women escaped Castro's house May 6 when one of them kicked out part of a door and called to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested within hours and has remained behind bars.


(Photo by Getty Images

Residents of the street where Castro's boarded up house is surrounded by a tall chain-link security fence welcomed the guilty plea and the news that the house would likely be torn down within a month, possibly for a park.

"It's really horrifying to look at and for my kids to see," said De'Andrea Harris, who lives directly across the street with her two children. She said she had no idea anything was wrong in the house until the women were rescued.

"So I just can't wait until they tear the house down so everything can be over," she said.

Castro's uncle, Julio Castro, who has run a nearby corner store for 44 years, said the ordeal will be with the family the rest of their lives.

"He's getting what he deserves," Castro, 77, said. "Nobody has the right to incarcerate you for 10 years."

Another neighbor on the street where many residents are also from Puerto Rico, said Castro had seemed to be a good neighbor before the women escaped.

"We never, the neighborhood, realized that he had those gals there," Aurora Marti, 75, said in Spanish. "He would come out, greeted me, we would talk for a bit here or in front of the door, and that's it."

She said she knows Castro's mother, "and she's suffering a lot."

Castro had been scheduled for trial Aug. 5 on a 977-count indictment, but 40 counts were dropped as part of the plea deal. The indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to accusations that he caused one woman's miscarriages. The former school bus driver also was charged with hundreds of counts of kidnapping and rape, plus assault and other counts.

The sticking point on a plea deal had been whether the prosecutor would rule out the death penalty.

Prosecutors will recommend at the sentencing hearing that Castro have no contact with the girl he fathered. McGinty said there's "zero chance" he'll ever be allowed to see the girl.

McGinty said the county will use more than $20,000 seized from Castro to tear down his house within a month, and two abandoned houses next door will be razed and a vacant lot acquired for a park.

The prosecutor rejected attempts by Castro to portray himself a victim of a sex addiction.

"He's a coward and he's nowhere near the truth," McGinty said. "He's in his own world and it's not a world of regret and remorse. He feels sorry for one person and one person only -- himself."

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