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Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro's apparent suicide: Did he escape justice?
The notorious abductor of three young women was found hanging in his cell barely a month into what was supposed to be a life sentence without parole
 
Ariel Castro was sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years barely a month before he turned up dead in his cell.
Ariel Castro was sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years barely a month before he turned up dead in his cell. Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

At 10:52 on Tuesday night, convicted kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro was pronounced dead, an hour and a half after he was discovered hanging in his prison cell. The Ohio State Highway Patrol and Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections and are investigating the death, but all early signs point to suicide.

Castro, 53, "was housed in protective custody which means he was in a cell by himself," notes JoEllen Smith at the Department of Corrections, "and rounds are required every 30 minutes at staggered intervals."

On August 1, Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for his decade of kidnapping, imprisoning, and repeatedly sexually assaulting Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight, and Gina DeJesus, three young women from his Cleveland neighborhood. And now, says Michael Schwirtz at The New York Times, Castro's death represents "a shocking development in a story that has held the country transfixed since May," when Berry escaped Castro's house with the help of some neighbors.

Few people are publicly mourning Castro's death, although his family is reportedly angry it heard the news from the media, not the prison where Castro was scheduled to live out his days. "Hell has a new arrival," says Dana Pretzer at Scared Monkeys, who says it's ironic that after imprisoning his captives for some 10 years, Castro "could not last 10 weeks in confinement." The justice system may have locked him up forever, Pretzer adds, but "in the end the people get the death penalty for Ariel Castro after all."

Not everyone is so crass. Castro may have "escaped his prison sentence," says Pat Carbonell at Lez Get Real, but "now he gets to meet his Maker... and justice will be served."

Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice shows a hint of compassion, noting that while Castro was placed in protective custody, "just as in the past, he couldn't be protected from himself." Either way, Gandelman adds, "this definitely qualifies as 'closure.'"

F. Brinley Bruton at NBC News says that while Castro's apparent suicide may provide closure for much of the country, it could actually rob his victims of "a vital sense that justice has been done." Bruton talked to British psychologist Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, and she suggested that for Berry, DeJesus, and Knight, "this was in a way his last slap to their faces — 'I've got this over you.'"

At Castro's sentencing, Papadopoulos noted, Knight told her former captor: "I spent 11 years in hell, now your hell is just beginning." The fact that it didn't last long, the psychologist says, means "these girls are going to have to find a way of healing without a sense of justice."

We want the sense of justice when we heal. Sometimes we have to heal without it, and sadly that is what they will have to do.... They very literally had a sentence dealt out to them.... They were literally, metaphorically, in every way imprisoned and held captive.... The idea that he did this on his terms again is going to make them, at least to some extent, to feel cheated. [Papadopoulos, to NBC News]

 
Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian, and plays in an Austin rock band.

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