Ariel Castro's life as a kidnapper bewildered many who wondered how he could keep three young girls imprisoned in his home for more than a decade. Now, his prison death has added a new series of questions.
Was his suicide glaring proof that he was a coward who couldn't face imprisonment, much the same as he doled out to innocent victims? And could his death have been prevented?
The convicted kidnapper and rapist became notorious after officials discovered he held the women hostage in his Cleveland, Ohio, home. Tuesday night, the man who insisted he wasn't a monster killed himself inside his prison cell.
Some said his death will bring closure to his victims. Others question how such a high profile inmate could have been given the opportunity and time to end his own life.
"He's a coward," said Rick Shear, who knew Castro for more than 15 years as a friendly man who often barbecued and played guitar for his neighbors. "He should have at least done 10 years to get a feel for what he put them girls through."
Shear, 36, added that Castro's suicide illustrated that the man who imprisoned women couldn't face a similar fate as a prisoner himself.
Castro, 53, pleaded guilty to 937 charges including rape, kidnapping and aggravated murder charges in connection with the abduction of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. All three women were rescued May 6 after years of living in chains.
The former Cleveland bus driver was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for his crimes. He was admitted to prison on Aug. 2 and housed in a single cell under protective custody. Inmates in protective custody are kept under close watch with corrections officers making security rounds at staggered 30-minute intervals.
He was found hanging in his cell at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient about 9:20 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokeswoman Joellen Smith said in a statement.
As word spread of Castro's ending, many said they were not surprised by his death. However, some coupled their disdain with questions about how Castro could have successfully committed suicide.
A number of high profile prisoners have ended their own lives in jails and prisons. Experts say it's nearly impossible to stop someone from killing themselves over the course of a long incarceration.
Seven prisoners, including Billy Slagle, a man condemned to death for stabbing his neighbor 17 times with a pair of scissors, committed suicide so far this year, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction records show. Slagle hanged himself in August, three days before his scheduled execution.
In 2010, a former medical student accused of killing a masseuse he met through Craigslist committed suicide in a Boston jail while awaiting trial. Prison records show fewer than 10 prisoners in the Ohio state corrections system commit suicide each year. Last year, eight prisoners committed suicide, up from four prisoners in 2011 and six prisoners in 2010.
"It only takes up to 5 minutes to successfully commit suicide by hanging," said Lindsay Hayes, project director of the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives and a 30-year expert on suicide prevention in correctional facilities. "It was the responsibility of the mental health staff at the prison to send him (Castro) through a battery of tests and assessments to determine whether he was currently displaying any suicidal ideation or behavior."
Hayes said he wasn't surprised to hear that Castro had killed himself because the convict was guaranteed to spend the rest of his life in prison and likely had undiagnosed long term mental health issues.
It's also almost impossible to put someone on indefinite suicide watch, since prison officials have restricted budgets, he said.
Craig Weintraub, Castro's attorney, told NBC's Today show Wednesday that his client's family was "devastated by the news" of his death.
He said relatives had visited Castro "a couple of times" 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.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio quickly issued a statement calling for a full investigation into Castro's death.
Mike Brickner, a spokesman for the group, said prison officials should use the incident to evaluate whether Castro had adequate mental health care, whether he was tested enough and whether any signs were missed.
"Suicide in prisons and jails is all too common," Brickner said. "We need to address it."
Ohio prisons director Gary Mohr appointed a team Wednesday to complete a review Castro's death by the end of the month, Smith said.
The review team will include professionals from the department's legal, medical, mental health, security and operational divisions who know the department's policies and procedures, but who were not directly involved in the incident, Smith said.
The department's medical and health professionals will also review Castro's medical and mental health records. Such reviews are routine after an inmate death, she said.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol will also conduct an investigation, Lt. Anne Ralston, spokeswoman for the Highway Patrol, said.
"We will determine exactly what happened surrounding the death of inmate Castro," Ralston said. "It's an ongoing investigation so we're not going to be releasing details at this time. I understand that people have lots of questions, but that's what the investigation will uncover and document."
Meanwhile, reactions to Castro's death continued to resonate Wednesday.
Echoing the sentiments of people in Castro's neighborhood, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty called his suicide cowardly.
"This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade," McGinty said in a statement. "Let this be a message to other child kidnappers: There will be a heavy price to pay when you are caught. You won't enjoy the captive side of the bars."
Jones Day Law Firm, which represents Castro's three victims, said the young women did not want to comment on Castro's death.
Tito DeJesus, a longtime family friend of Gina DeJesus said the young woman's family had hoped Castro would spend a long time in prison dealing with his crimes. Still, Gina DeJesus' family sent condolences to Castro's family on Wednesday, he said.
"Now the girls can really start to heal because the guy is gone," DeJesus said.
Yamiche Alcindor and Donna Leinwand Leger, USA TODAY