Ariel Castro’s fate had been determined long before he was sentenced Thursday to life in prison plus 1,000 years. But Knight’s words in a crowded courtroom put a final seal on the kidnapping case that horrified the nation and subjected three young women to years of torment in Castro’s ramshackle house.
“You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back,” Knight said. “I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning.”
The 53-year-old former school bus driver apologized to his victims briefly in a rambling, defiant statement. He repeatedly blamed his sex addiction, his former wife and others while claiming most of the sex was consensual and that the women were never tortured. “These people are trying to paint me as a monster,” he said. “I’m not a monster. I’m sick.”
The sentence was a foregone conclusion after Castro pleaded guilty last week to 937 counts, including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault. A deal struck with prosecutors spared him from a possible death sentence for beating and starving Knight until she miscarried.
Knight was just a few feet from Castro, seeing him for the first time since her rescue in May from the house that Castro turned into a prison with a makeshift alarm system and heavy wooden doors covering the windows. “I will live on,” she said. “You will die a little every day.”
Knight, Gina DeJesus and Amanda Berry disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each accepted a ride from Castro. They escaped May 6 when Berry, 27, broke part of a door to the house in a Cleveland neighborhood and yelled for help. Castro was arrested that evening.
A letter written by Castro was found in the home after his arrest was titled “Confession and Details.” He also wrote “I am a sexual predator.”
Knight, 32, was the first woman abducted after Castro lured her into his house with the promise of a puppy for her son. She sat quietly as Castro claimed the women lived a happy life with him.
Judge Michael Russo thanked Knight for showing “remarkable restraint” during his statement. The judge then dismissed Castro’s claims that the women lived a happy life with him.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone in America that would agree with you,” he said.