Ohio kidnapper Ariel Castro found dead in cell

5:51 PM, Sep 4, 2013   |    comments
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Video: Ariel Castro's death: What it means for his victims

Ariel Castro Video still NBC

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison last month for abducting and sexually abusing three young women in his Cleveland home, hanged himself in his cell Tuesday night, according to preliminary results of an autopsy performed early Wednesday.

Castro, 53, was found at 9:20 p.m. ET hanging in his cell at the Correction Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, where he was being held under protective custody.

Prison medical staff attempted lifesaving measures on the scene before he was transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. ET, according to JoEllen Smith spokesperson with the Ohio Rehabilitation and Correction department.

Franklin County coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak said preliminary results of the autopsy confirmed that Castro's death was a suicide and the cause of death was hanging. She said toxicology tests would be completed later.

Castro was not under suicide watch, but was being checked on by guards every 30 minutes.

Smith said in a statement that a "thorough review" of the incident was underway.

The former Cleveland bus driver was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years on Aug. 1 for abducting three young women -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- over a 10-year period and holding them them captive in chains in his Cleveland home.

They were freed May 6 when Berry, who had a child fathered by Castro during her ordeal, managed to escape and alerted neighbors who called police.

At his sentencing, Castro apologized for his actions but also attempted to blame his acts on an obsession with sex and his own history of being abused as a child, telling the court: "I am not a monster."

Knight, the only victim to face Castro in court, said she would never forgive him for more than a decade of daily abuse.

"I spent 11 years in hell," she told Castro at his sentencing.

"Now your hell is just beginning," she said. "I will overcome all that happened, but you're going to face hell for eternity."

Craig Weintraub, Castro's attorney, tells NBC's TODAYshow Wednesday that his client's family was "devastated by the news"of his death.

He says relatives had visited Castro "a couple of time" since he was moved to the prison about two weeks ago.

The attorney says he realizes that many people will likely view Castro's death as"good riddance," but says he plans to "get to the bottom" of the circumstances surrounding his death. "This is a human being," he says.

Social media users reacted to the news of Castro's death with both anger and joy. On Twitter, users used the hashtag or search term #deadgiveaway to indicate they were tweeting about Castro.

One Twitter poster wrote: "Ariel Castro is gonna rot in hell."

Amid cheers from onlookers, Castro's house was torn down last month by two demolition companies free of charge after Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said he wanted it razed so it would not become a macabre tourist attraction.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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