US & Canada

Profile: Cleveland abductor Ariel Castro

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Media captionAriel Castro: "I'm not a monster, I'm a normal person, I am just sick, I have an addiction"

When friends and neighbours held a vigil to mark another year of Gina DeJesus' disappearance, Ariel Castro was there, comforting her mother.

But Castro had held Ms DeJesus in his house in Cleveland, Ohio, for almost a decade, along with Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight and a girl born to Ms Berry in captivity in 2007.

He was sentenced in August 2013 to life imprisonment without parole plus 1,000 years, after pleading guilty to 937 charges including aggravated murder, kidnapping, rape and assault that allowed him to avoid the death penalty.

He was found dead in his cell at a correctional centre in central Ohio in the evening of 3 September.

'Regular guy'

When the charges against Castro emerged, neighbours in the heavily Hispanic, working-class area were shocked. One said he had spent time with Castro socially.

Ariel Castro was born in the US territory of Puerto Rico, and had owned the home on Seymour Avenue since 1992. He had worked as a school bus driver for 22 years until November 2012.

His family emigrated from the city of Yauco. Castro's father, Nona Castro, ran a used car firm but died in 2004.

His uncle Julio "Cesi" Castro, 78, remains a pillar of the city's Hispanic community, running the Caribe Grocery corner store.

Police said they had been to the house on Seymour Avenue twice - in 2000 when Castro reported a fight on the street and in 2004 after he left a child on a school bus. An investigation into that incident found no evidence of a crime.

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Media captionArlene Castro: ''I'm so so sorry''

Neighbour Charles Ramsey, who helped Amanda Berry escape, said he had eaten and drunk beer with Castro.

"He's somebody you look and you look away because he's not doing nothing but the average stuff," Mr Ramsey told a local TV station. "There's nothing exciting about him."

Castro had played bass guitar in several local bands, including the popular Latino band, Grupo Kanon, on and off for 15 years.

Julio Castro told a local broadcaster that his nephew was someone who "everybody thought was such a nice person".

Juan Perez, 27, who grew up in the area, said he had thought Castro was a "fun guy" and that parents on the street had trusted him.

But Darlene Dos Reis, a work colleague, told the BBC she did not like working with Castro. "I found him to be very mean and hateful with the children," she said.

On his Facebook profile, Castro said he was the grandfather of five children and had posted a congratulatory note in April to his daughter, Arlene, on the birth of a child.

Domestic charges

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Media captionThe BBC visits Lorain Avenue in Cleveland to find out how the missing girls cases impacted a community

The abductor's former wife, Grimilda Figueroa - who died last year - moved herself and three children out of the house in 1996 after years of violent abuse, said the couple's son, Anthony Castro, 31, a banker in Cincinnati, Ohio.

"I was beaten as well," Anthony Castro told the UK's Daily Mail newspaper. "We were never really close because of that and it was also something we never really talked about."

Although Castro and Figueroa divorced in 1996, court records show he was accused in 2005 of attacking his former wife.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Figueroa suffered multiple injuries, including broken ribs, a knocked-out tooth, and a blood clot in her brain.

Her lawyer said Castro abducted their daughters Ariel and Arlene several times, despite the divorce decree having no provision for his visiting rights. The newspaper does not report how the case was settled.

The accusations of abuse have been echoed by relatives since the discovery of the abducted girls.

Castro would frequently lock Figueroa in an apartment in which they lived after they met, the Associated Press quoted her father, Ismail Figueroa, as saying.

It also quoted Figueroa's brother-in-law, Angel Villanueva, as saying Castro refused to let people visit the house they later moved into on Seymour Avenue, and only let Figueroa out if she was with him.

Figueroa's sister, Elida Caraballo, told Britain's Daily Telegraph that Castro locked Figueroa in a box in the house, beat her frequently, and knocked her down the stairs.

Elida Caraballo's husband, Frank, who grew up on Seymour Avenue, said the house had a brick basement with a trapdoor.

Castro had a dispute in 1996 with a neighbour.

"Court documents listed a great deal of hostility," the Cleveland newspaper reported.

'Sex addiction'

A local broadcaster reported that he had been arrested and charged with domestic abuse in 1993, but the charge was later dropped.

And Castro was fired from his school bus driver position in November after a history of citations.

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Media caption"My name is Michelle Knight and I would like to tell you what 11 years was like for me"

According to school board records, in 2004, he left a special-education student alone in a parked bus while he bought a burger. Five years later he was suspended for an illegal turn while children were aboard.

In 2012, he was suspended again for using the bus to go shopping. But the final straw came later in the year when he left his vehicle unlocked and unattended two blocks from his home.

At a hearing on 1 August, Castro was sentenced to a lifetime in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 1,000 years.

Castro made a rambling statement to the court in which he appeared to lay blame for the crimes on an addiction to sex and on the FBI for failing to properly investigate the abductions.

"I believe I am addicted to porn to the point that it really makes me impulsive and I just don't realise what I'm doing is wrong," he said.

He added: "I'm not a violent predator… I'm not a monster, I'm a normal person.

"I'm just sick. I have an addiction, just like an alcoholic has an addiction."

He was found hanging in his cell on 3 September, and prison staff were unable to revive him.

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