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A chilling scene today in a Cleveland courtroom was the sentencing hearing of Ariel Castro who was convicted of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his home for about a decade. Today, a judge sentenced him to life in prison, plus a thousand years. The hearing was the first time that one of Castro's victims faced her abuser since she escaped from his home. Castro himself also made a speech, one that was difficult to listen to. From member station WCPN in Cleveland, Nick Castele reports.
NICK CASTELE, BYLINE: In an emotional hearing lasting more than four hours, prosecutors outlined how Ariel Castro kidnapped Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and held them captive, repeatedly abusing them. One by one, police and doctors took the stand to describe how Castro offered the women rides in his car at different times between 2002 and 2004 and then took them to his home, where he confined and assaulted them.
He barricaded the windows of their rooms and fashioned a makeshift alarm system. He sometimes kept them in chains, threatening them repeatedly with a gun. Assistant prosecutor Anna Faraglia says Castro even showed the women videos of vigils being held for them.
ANNA FARAGLIA: And he even had the audacity to attend them and to talk to the family members, knowing full well that these women were in his captivity.
CASTELE: Last week, Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder for abusing one of the women until she miscarried a pregnancy. That plea deal let him avoid the death penalty but laid out a sentence of life in prison, plus 1,000 years.
Amanda Berry's sister spoke on her behalf today, asking for privacy. Gina DeJesus' cousin said DeJesus looked forward to going to school now, then spun around to face Castro and said in Spanish: May God have mercy on your soul.
Michelle Knight, who endured the longest captivity and some of the most horrific abuses, tried to hold back tears as she read from a written statement. She said every day during her captivity she worried about what would happen to her.
MICHELLE KNIGHT: Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. Years turned into eternity.
CASTELE: She and Gina DeJesus were confined in a 7-by-11-foot room, with the window boarded up and a hole cut in the ceiling for ventilation. Knight said her friendship with DeJesus was the only good to come out of the ordeal.
KNIGHT: Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall. I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse.
CASTELE: Knight says she cried daily for her son, who was 2 years old when she was kidnapped. She called Ariel Castro a hypocrite for going to church while abusing the women at home. She told him that the death penalty would have been too easy.
KNIGHT: I spent 11 years in hell. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all of this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.
CASTELE: When Castro spoke, it was for about 15 minutes at the end of the hearing. He insisted that he was not a violent person, claiming he was the victim of abuse as a child and saying it was his sex addiction that drove him to kidnap and abuse the women. Facing the judge, he said, quote, "These people are trying to paint me as a monster, and I'm not a monster. I'm sick." end quote.
Castro then asked his victims to forgive him. Judge Michael Russo imposed the sentence agreed upon in the plea deal: life plus 1,000 years. Afterward, county prosecutor Timothy McGinty appeared glad this chapter is closed.
TIMOTHY MCGINTY: This is a great day for the people of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. The nightmare on Seymour Avenue is over.
CASTELE: And Castro's house on Seymour Avenue, where the women were held captive, will soon be demolished. For NPR News, I'm Nick Castele in Cleveland. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.