Kidnapper Ariel Castro shocked a Cleveland court today by saying he is "not a monster," "lived a normal life" and that the sex he had with the three women he held captive for more than a decade was "consensual."
Castro's statement came after one of his victims, the petite Michelle Knight, confronted him for the "hell" she endured in his house for 11 years.
Castro showed no reaction today to the remarks by Knight. Instead, he gave a rambling speech in which he depicted himself as a person who had "everything going" for himself but was plagued by an addiction to porn.
Castro, 53, also denied that he ever raped Knight or his two other victims, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, during the years they were incarcerated in his house.
"Most of the sex that went on in the house, and probably all of it, was consensual," Castro said.
"These people are trying to paint me as a monster. I'm not a monster. I'm sick. My sexual problem, it's so bad on my mind," Castro said.
"God as my witness, I never beat these women like they're trying to say that I did. I never tortured them," he said.
He insisted "there was a lot of harmony" in his house among himself and his captives.
Castro had such an emotional attachment to the home that prosecutors said he broke down in tears when he had to sign over the property deed a few days ago, saying it was wrong to tear it down because he had so many happy memories there.
When Castro finished, Judge Michael Russo thanked Knight for her "remarkable restraint" during the statement.
"You're welcome," she replied, prompting light laughter.
Castro's statement came after Knight bravely delivered a victim's impact statement telling the man who tormented her for more than a decade that "I will live on, but you will die a little every day."
Knight scoffed at Castro for "going to church every Sunday and coming home to torture us."
Berry and DeJesus did not appear in court but had statements read in court for them.
As one woman finished her statement she turned to Castro and said in Spanish, "May God have mercy on your soul."
Castro, manacled at the hands and feet, stared emotionless ahead during the statements.
Castro had agreed last week to accept a sentence of life in prison plus 1,000 years, but a psychiatrist who testified during the morning at his sentencing hearing said his victims will also have to live with his actions for the rest of their lives.
"The damage that was done does not go away," said psychiatrist Dr. Frank Ochberg. "This was life sentences."
During the hearing, detectives told how he captured the three women and subjected them to a decade of torture, which one woman wrote in a diary was like being held as a "prisoner of war."
Prosecutors used a detailed scale model of his house and slides to take the court through his house of horrors of hidden rooms, chains, motorcycle helmets for his victims and a gun he would use to threaten them.
Knight, 32, the first of the three women to be kidnapped, was in a store asking for directions when she was approached by Castro who offered to give her a ride, said Detective Andy Harasimchuk.
Knight told detectives she accepted the ride because she knew Castro's daughter. Castro then drove her to his house and invited her to come inside to pick out a puppy for her son, at which point Harasimchuk said Knight was restrained with an extension cord, dragged to the basement where she was restrained with chains, had a motorcycle helmet jammed on her head and raped for the first of many times.
Eight months later, on April 21, 2003, Castro targeted Amanda Berry by offering her a ride home from her job at Burger King. Berry knew Castro's son and daughter, and Castro took her to his house so she could talk to his daughter, Harasimchuk said.
She was quickly bound with duct tape, put in a motorcycle helmet and chained to a pole in the basement.
Castro's third victim, Gina DeJesus, now 23, was friends with his daughter. She got into Castro's car and he asked her to come in the house to help him carry a speaker to his car, Harasimchuk said. She became uncomfortable and tried to flee in the dark house, she inadvertently ran into a closet and captured, the detective said.
The home was wired with alarm clocks "in a makeshift manner" to create an alarm system to the house, he said.
The women were kept in two rooms behind a door that could be secured from the outside with a lock, with a circular hole cut towards the bottom of the door that was a source of ventilation, the agent said. The windows were boarded up with very heavy closet doors, he said.
Berry shared one room with her now 6-year-old daughter, who Castro fathered while in captivity. DeJesus and Knight shared an attached, smaller room where a chain was also kept to restrain the women.
According to a sentencing memorandum released Wednesday, the women were restrained by chains attached to their ankles with access only to plastic toilets in the bedrooms that were rarely emptied. Castro fed the women one meal a day and used the "cold of the basement" and the "heat of the attic" as punishment techniques, according to the memo.
The women kept diaries during their incarceration.
"The entries speak of forced sexual conduct, of being locked in a dark room, of anticipating the next session of abuse, of the dreams of someday escaping and being reunited with family, of being chained to a wall, of being held like a prisoner of war," the memorandum says.
Castro pleaded guilty Friday to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape, assault and aggravated murder that will send him to prison for life with no chance of parole for abducting the three women and keeping them as sex slaves for more than a decade in his Cleveland home.
The prosecution released the memo in an attempt to persuade the judge to give Castro the sentence that the former bus driver has agreed to accept.
The plea deal spared Castro the death penalty because he was accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus after forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims that he is accused of impregnating. The deal will also spare the three women from having to testify at a trial.