Ariel Castro was today sentenced to 1,000 years in prison for holding three Cleveland women hostage as pictures emerged of the House of Horrors where he repeatedly sexually, physically and emotionally abused them over the course of a decade.

Castro, who pleaded guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping, rape and murder, appeared in Cuyahoga County court for the dramatic hearing, shackled at his hands and feet.

Graphic and disturbing evidence was heard during the four-and-a-half-hour hearing, with Castro himself giving a rambling and deluded version of events in which he denied raping or beating his three victims.

Standing in an orange jumpsuit, Castro shocked the packed courtroom by stating there was ‘a lot of harmony’ in the house where he trapped and abused Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight.

The 53-year-old blamed his behavior on the violence he suffered as a child and his addiction to porn.

Speaking to the court about the abuse suffered by the girls, a doctor said: ‘These women have life sentences, they will never be free of the damage done’.

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Sickening: Chains found in an upstairs bedroom at the Seymour Ave. house are shown on a television monitor during the sentencing phase of Ariel Castro Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, in Cleveland Sickening: Chains found in an upstairs bedroom at the Seymour Ave. house are shown on.

Prison: The court is being shown around the Cleveland House of Horrors through police photos

Prison: The court is being shown around the Cleveland House of Horrors through police photos

 

 
Basement: The pole the girls were all chained to and raped many times throughout their time in captivity is pictured

Basement: The pole the girls were all chained to and raped many times throughout their time in captivity is pictured

 

 
 
A room with toys
A room in Ariel Castro's house
 

Clutter: The rooms inside the Castro home are strewn with discarded clothes, toys and shabby furniture, with children’s drawings decorating the pink walls

 

 The diary entries

Document: The diary 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, of being treated like an animal’

The detective in charge of the case described how Castro abducted the three women, took them to his home and immediately tied them in chains in the basement and raped them.

He put a motorbike helmet on each girl and left them in the dark basement overnight, Detective Harasimchuk said.

‘Each woman told me they were repeatedly sexually, physically and emotionally abused by Ariel Castro during the entire time they were in captivity,’ he said.

Dr Frank Ochberg described to the court the long-term impact the continuous abuse will have on the victims.

He described their ‘terror-induced states of mind, defilement, dehumanization and how they were treated like animals and deprived of their sense of self and dignity’.

‘They have life sentences. They will never be free of the damage done,’ he told the court.

 
Vivid: This image of a pink mattress in a pink room cluttered with clothes was part of the evidence shown in court during Castro's sentencing

Vivid: This image of a pink mattress in a pink room cluttered with clothes was part of the evidence shown in court during Castro’s sentencing

 

 
The inside of the basement
room
 

Hidden from view: The house was divided in ways to hide the existence of rooms where the girls were being kept in captivity

 

 
A view of a bathroom room in Ariel Castro's house featuring pink flowery wallpaper

A view of a bathroom room in Ariel Castro’s house featuring pink flowery wallpaper

 

FBI agent Andrew Burke said he had been familiar with DeJesus’ and Amanda Berry’s disappearances prior to their discovery earlier this year.

He described the moment he saw the girls as ‘surreal’ as they were so pale and malnourished.

‘I’ll never forget it,’ he said. ‘It was surreal to me. I had been involved in the missing persons investigations for quite some time.’

He talked the court through pictures of inside the home, describing how the back door was equipped with an alarm, a bedspread separated the kitchen and living area, a porch swing obstructed a flight of stairs and a curtain was put over the stairs leading to the area where the women were held captive.

Bedroom windows were boarded shut from the inside with heavy closet doors and doorknobs had been removed and replaced with multiple locks, he said. The house was divided in ways to make it more secure and to hide the existence of rooms, he said.

Pictures of dirty mattresses draped in chains were shown as Burke explained it was from the room Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight lived.

Authorities also found a ‘significant amount’ of cash in a washing machine in the basement, the same room as the pole the women were chained to while he raped them.

On occasion, Castro would throw the money at the women after sexually abusing them and require  they pay him to pick up any special items for them when he left the house, the agent said.

He would also force them to hold a gun to his head and dare them to shoot him in a sick game of Russian Roulette.

A letter written by Castro was found in his home and shown in court. It read ‘Confession and Details’ at the top.

Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Detective Dave Jacobs said he talked with Castro a few days after the women escaped and that Castro said, ‘I knew what I did was wrong.’

A picture of the handwritten letter was also shown, in which Castro described the horrible things he forced the women to endure when they were in captivity while declaring: ‘Bottom line, I am a sexual predator’.

Officer Barbara Johnson was the first to take the stand today. As one of the first responders to the ‘house of horrors’ on Seymour Avenue, Cleveland, she described the girls as very pale, very thin and very scared when they found them.

She said: ‘Michelle Knight literally launched herself at another officer and kept repeating, “You saved us, you saved us”.’

Dr Gerald Maloney, the emergency room doctor on duty when the three victims were taken to the hospital, described them as ‘very much emotionally fragile at the time’ and said Knight requested that no male physicians attend to her.

He said Michelle Knight specifically was bruised and emaciated. Every witness described the girl’s as malnourished, pale and traumatized.

Detective Harasimchuk also told the court all three girls were vaginally, orally and anally raped throughout their time in captivity.

He said all three women were abducted after Castro offered them a ride and that each was chained in his basement and sexually assaulted within a few hours of being kidnapped.

Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said in a sentencing memorandum filed on Wednesday that Castro, who chained his captives and fed them only one meal a day, ‘admits his disgusting and inhuman conduct’ but ‘remains remorseless for his actions’.

The memorandum says many of the specific charges in Castro’s indictment reflect conduct documented by one of the women in her diary.

‘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 … of being treated like an animal,’ it says.

Cleveland police posted Knight's touching handwritten note on their Facebook page on Wednesday evening

Cleveland police posted Knight’s touching handwritten note on their Facebook page on Wednesday evening

 

FULL HORRORS OF CASTRO HOUSE REVEALED IN DOCUMENT

Michelle Knight was forced to abort an apparent pregnancy by consuming only tea and doing strenuous exercise.

She then had to deliver Amanda Berry’s child herself and resuscitate the baby after her birth, while Castro threatened to kill her if she failed.

The three women were not allowed out of their bedroom to use the bathroom, and had to resort to plastic toilets which were rarely emptied.

Castro deliberately made the attic unbearably hot and the basement freezing cold so he could punish his prisoners if he thought they were misbehaving.

At one point, he locked the girls in a vehicle in his garage to hide them from a friend who was visiting for three days.

In a bid to frighten the women into obeying him, he told them he was ‘hunting for replacements’ and claimed he had previously captured other victims.

In the court filing, McGinty offered new details of Castro’s treatment of the women, who he said were kept ‘in a state of powerlessness’ through physical, sexual and psychological violence.

‘He made them believe that their physical survival depended on him, and he threatened to end their lives if they did not comply with his every demand,’ McGinty said.

Castro lured one of the women into his Cleveland home with the promise of a puppy for her son and tricked another by saying she could see his daughter, McGinty said.

He chained his captives by their ankles, fed them only one meal a day and provided plastic toilets in their bedrooms that were infrequently emptied, the filing said.

He menaced them with a gun, threatened them with tales of other captives, some of whom hadn’t made it home, and at one point locked all of them in a vehicle in his garage for three days while he had a visitor.

Castro claimed he didn’t have an exit strategy from his complicated double life and finally gave the women a chance to escape by leaving a door unlocked, the court filing said.

The women, each kidnapped separately when they accepted a ride from Castro on Cleveland’s blue-collar west side, quickly escaped after Amanda Berry kicked out the door panel on May 6 and Castro was arrested within hours.

The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years.

Other horrific details of the women’s ordeal had already emerged, including tales of being chained to poles in the basement or a bedroom heater or inside a van, with one woman forced to wear a motorcycle helmet while chained in the basement and, after she tried to escape, having a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.

Castro repeatedly starved and beat one of the victims each time she was pregnant, forcing her to miscarry five times.

He forced the same woman on threat of death to safely deliver the child he fathered with another victim on Christmas Day 2006. The same day, prosecutors say, Castro raped the woman who helped deliver his daughter.

Berry, 27, made a surprise onstage appearance at a rap concert last weekend, and a second victim, Gina DeJesus, 23, made a few televised comments as a privacy fence was being erected around her house.

The third victim, Michelle Knight, 32, appeared with Berry and DeJesus in a video in early July thanking the community for its support.

It also includes an evaluation by a clinical professor of psychiatry at Michigan State Universitywho describes the emotional toll that the ten years of captivity had on the women.

‘He appeared to be evolving in an ever more dangerous direction, capturing younger and younger women, telling his captives he was hunting for replacements,’ wrote Frank Ochberg, who also testified in court.

‘These and other threats had the effect of terrifying the victims into subservience,’ Dr Ochberg explained.

He added: ‘Castro hurt each of the three young women that he captured and confined in ways that create lasting wounds. He terrified them.

‘The body responds to terror long afterward with uncontrollable visions, smells, sounds and sensations. These are called trauma memories and they are unlike ordinary memory. They come at night in the form of nightmares.’

In his evaluation, Dr Ochberg wrote that Knight – who was kidnapped first after Castro promised to give her a puppy for her son – suffered ‘the longest and most severely.’

Castro has admitted that on one occasion Knight told him she may be pregnant and he forced a termination by putting her on a tea-only diet for several days, made her perform ‘knee bends’ and jumping jacks.

However, when Berry fell pregnant, Knight helped save the baby’s life as Castro threatened to kill her if the child did not survive.

‘It was Michelle who served as doctor, nurse, midwife and pediatrician during the birth. She breathed life into that infant when she wasn’t breathing,’ wrote Dr Ochberg.

‘At other times, she interceded when Castro sought to abuse Gina, interposing herself and absorbing physical and sexual trauma. But each survivor had a will to prevail and used that will to live through the ordeal.’

The memorandum also describes how Castro controlled the movements of the women, keeping them in locked rooms and using physical restraints.

‘There is only one bathroom in the house, on the first floor. The Defendant would not allow the victims downstairs to use the bathroom. They only had access to plastic toilets in the bedrooms. They were emptied infrequently.’

The document adds: ‘He controlled the temperature and the inflow of food and drink. He used the cold of the basement and the heat of the attic as punishment techniques.’

 

Berry’s diary was addressed to her mother, and then after her mom died, she ‘wrote to her mother in heaven, seeking to soothe her’ and praying for deliverance and the health of her daughter who Castro fathered.

The diaries show how ‘the victims had to watch the rest of the world turn as they were held in captivity’.

‘Holidays, world events, and even the passing of Ms Berry’s mother were observed by them, removed from the outside world.’

The purpose of the memorandum is to help establish a record that will serve as justification for Castro’s sentence should it come under review in the future.

Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including murder and kidnapping, in a deal that dropped a possible death penalty in exchange for life in prison plus 1,000 years.

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