Ariel Castro, the man who admitted to abducting three women and subjecting them to years of sexual and emotional abuse in his Cleveland home, asked to apologize to his victims during a sentencing hearing Thursday. Under the terms of a plea deal, Castro will receive life in prison plus 1,000 years.
Ariel Castro appears in court during the sentencing phase on Thursday in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak/Associated Press
"I want to apologize to the victims," Castro, 53, said when given a chance to speak.
Judge Michael Russo of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court replied that he could do so then or wait until the end of the day. Castro — handcuffed, chained at the feet and wearing an orange prison jumpsuit — responded that he would wait to elaborate.
With the sentence essentially a foregone conclusion, the defense and prosecution sparred over how many of the lurid details of the rape and abuse of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight would be rehashed in court.
Attorneys for the state sought to pile on evidence to back the 977-count indictment against Castro — using photos and even a model of the defendant's house — in an effort to make the case appeal-proof. Castro pleaded guilty to 937 counts, including kidnapping, rape and aggravated murder.
The defense objected to the prosecution's display. Attorney Craig Weintraub, acknowledged that much of Castro's crime was "incomprehensible" but said it was more important to "protect the dignity and privacy of these three women."
The judge said he would allow only what was "necessary under the law to make a proper sentencing."
In other testimony:
Police officer Barb Johnson, one of the first responders at the scene when the three women were freed May 6, described how Knight "launched herself" into the arms of a fellow officer, crying, "You saved us, you saved us!" She said DeJesus "jumped into my arms" from a dark hallway in the house. The officer said she recognized the victim from missing persons photos, but that DeJesus was obviously now a mature young woman and "a lot thinner and paler."
Det. Andy Harasimchuk of the Cleveland Police Department Sex Crime Unit, said it was clear that all three women had been chained or otherwise restrained for long periods of time.
Cleveland FBI Special Agent Andrew Burke, who examined the crime scene in depth, said it was "surreal and difficult" for him even after years of field experience.