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US kidnapper gets life plus 1 000 years

02 August 2013, 08:38

Cleveland - The US man convicted of holding three women captive in his house for over a decade and raping them repeatedly was sentenced on Thursday to life without parole plus 1 000 years.

Ariel Castro, 53, had pleaded guilty to 937 counts including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault.

Castro apologized and told the court he's addicted to pornography, but he claimed that most of the sex with the women was consensual.

"These people are trying to paint me as a monster," he said. "I'm not a monster. I'm sick."

He got the life term for the most serious count and was getting additional time for the hundreds of other counts.

A deal struck with prosecutors on Friday spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving a pregnant victim until she miscarried.

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

They escaped 6 May when one of them, Amanda Berry, broke out part of the door to Castro's house and yelled to neighbours for help.

Castro said on Thursday 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.

Cord around neck

One of three women kidnapped told Castro on Thursday that her life is just beginning, while his is over.

"You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back," Michelle Knight told Castro. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now you're hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this has happened, but you will face hell for eternity."

Knight, 32, did not face Castro as she spoke, but he glanced toward her several times after she entered the courtroom. She was the first woman abducted Castro in 2002 after he lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son.

FBI agent Andrew Burke said Castro turned his house into a prison by creating a makeshift alarm system and chaining them inside bolted bedrooms.

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

One woman had a motorcycle helmet placed on her head while chained in the basement; later, when she tried to escape, she had a vacuum cleaner cord wrapped around her neck.

Berry had a baby fathered by Castro. Knight delivered the baby on Christmas Day 2006 in the basement under threat of death from Castro, using a kiddie pool to avoid creating a mess.

At an earlier court hearing, Castro said he greatly missed his daughter, but the judge rejected a request to see her.

- AP


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