The man serving a life sentence for holding three women captive in his Ohio home for more than a decade was found dead in his prison cell Tuesday night.
Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his prison cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to corrections spokeswoman JoEllen Smith. Castro was being held in solitary, protective custody with guards checking in every 30 minutes at staggered intervals.
The Associated Press reported preliminary autopsy results have ruled his death a suicide.
Medical staff attempted to resuscitate Castro after discovering his body. He was transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. Castro was taken off suicide watch in June, which would have required constant observation, reported ABC News.
"I was stunned," Castro's defense attorney Craig Weintraub told WKYC-TV. He believed more precautions should have been taken to prevent the apparent suicide.
"I think it's so unusual for a prisoner who is in the system for only 30 days to be found dead in a cell."
Castro was sentenced on Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years for kidnapping, raping and torturing Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. Castro fathered Berry's 6-year-old daughter, conceived during her captivity. The women escaped from Castro's Cleveland home on May 6.
"Our focus remains on the well-being of the survivors of Seymour Avenue. It is our sincere hope that they will continue to heal and recover," said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in a statement. "I ask the community to continue to respect the privacy of the survivors so that they can move forward with their lives."
Castro escaped the death penalty as part of a deal in which he pleaded guilty to 937 counts including rape, kidnapping, assault and aggravated murder as a result of his beatings which ended his victims' pregnancies.
During his sentencing, Castro claimed that he was "not a monster," that the sex he had with his victims was consensual and part of a happy life they had with him. He blamed his impulsive behavior that led to kidnapping his victims on an addiction to pornography.
Knight, the longest held captive, addressed Castro during the sentencing.
"You took 11 years of my life away, and I have got it back," she said. "I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity."
As part of the agreement, Castro gave up the deed to the home where he imprisoned the three women to Cuyahoga County. His home was demolished a week after his sentencing. The demolition initially was set to be paid for with $22,000 found in a washing machine in Castro's basement, but a demolition company offered its services free of charge.