Perhaps the only decent thing Ariel Castro has done in more than a decade was to plead guilty Friday to 937 of 977 charges against him in the Cuyahoga Court of Common Pleas. With the plea deal, Castro has avoided the possibility of a death sentence. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight thus have been spared the spectacle of a trial and the additional trauma of reliving a decade of captivity and abuse.
Between 2002 and 2004, the three young women, then 16, 14 and 20, accepted rides home from Castro on separate occasions. They did not make it to their families until early this May, after Berry escaped Castro’s Seymour Avenue house in Cleveland with the help of neighbors, leading to the rescue of the other two.
The charges against Castro, 53, document the physical and emotional cruelty the women endured. In the prison he created, the former school bus driver repeatedly raped his captives, fathered a child with one and starved and beat another until she miscarried five pregnancies.
Under the plea agreement, Castro faces sentencing on Thursday to a lifetime in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years. His house will be turned over to the Cuyahoga County Land Bank and torn down. The deal also prevents him from making any financial gain from his crimes. As Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, aptly put it, “The captor is now captive.”
Berry, DeJesus and Knight have expressed their relief at the plea deal and their gratitude for the continuing support of a public appalled by Castro’s crime. With the end of the case in sight, the women and their families can devote their time and energy to putting the harrowing experience behind them and rebuilding their disrupted lives.
If any good has come out of Castro’s crime, it is that the rescue of the women, alive and within miles of where they were kidnapped, has focused attention on the plight of victims and their families and on how missing-person cases are handled.