Ariel Castro is dead. Prison staff at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, found him hanged in his prison cell at approximately 9:20 last night. After prison medical staff attempted to resuscitate him, Castro was moved to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead nearly a half-hour later. He was 53 years old.
Even the most sympathetic of individuals would have difficulty describing Castro as anything other than a monster. He was a kidnapper. He was a rapist. He punched a woman in the stomach to abort a pregnancy. And all that is not even counting all the things he was accused of doing before he locked Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus up in his house for nearly a decade. Things like savagely beating his common law wife, abducting his own children, and being the kind of bus driver that makes Otto Mann from The Simpsons look like a school system Employee of the Year.
And yet I sort of feel sorry for him.
Even though it was of his own making, Catro’s prison sentence could be considered cruel and unusual punishment. A life sentence plus 1,000 years? Even if Castro could somehow be rehabilitated and redeemed, he had no chance of ever leaving captivity. Why he chose this sentence over the death penalty only to commit suicide later is something none of us may ever know. It’s not hard to figure out, though, why a sentence of this nature might drive someone to hang himself. If no hope is offered, what is there left to live for?
But did Castro ever have any hope to begin with? He claims to have been a victim of sexual molestation when he was a child. If that is true, he had a set of issues no one should have to deal with thrust upon him at an early age. His ramblings during his sentencing hearing clearly demonstrated just how far his mind was gone. This was not a sudden snapping; this was years of mental deterioration manifesting itself in a horrible, unspeakable deed.
So the Castro suicide is really a two-fold exercise in sadness. We may have been dealing with someone who was victimized by another person with a mental illness of their own, leading to a decline in Castro’s psyche that eventually resulted in what he did later on in life. And we were looking at a man who had no hope of redemption in this world, as he was facing a sentence that was basically death on earth. Is it any wonder such a person would choose to end his own life?
There has to be hope. Even for a demented, evil man like Castro, there has to be some offer of hope. Would he have accepted it? Likely not, but his case should serve as an example of how a life devoid of goodness and a healed soul can spiral totally out of control. I want to applaud the death of this man, but I find myself instead wondering where things could have gone so wrong for him. Was there ever any hope that Ariel Castro would be anything other than what he was? We will never know.
Craig Weintraub, an attorney for Castro, perhaps put it best: “We’re in a civilized society, and no one should really be celebrating this.”