ACLU of Ohio Demands Probe of Cleveland Kidnapper’s Suicide

By Alissa Tabirian | September 6, 2013 | 1:45 PM EDT

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, his prison cell, and his three victims. (AP photo)

( – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio is calling for an investigation into the suicide of Ariel Castro, the convicted Cleveland kidnapper who served only a month of his life sentence plus 1,000 years before taking his own life.

The 53-year-old Castro was found hanged with a bed sheet in his prison cell on Tuesday, despite being monitored every 30 minutes by prison guards after being taken off a suicide watch.

“The death of any individual while in state custody must be taken very seriously and fully investigated,” Christine Link, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio, said in a press release. “As horrifying as Mr. Castro’s crimes may be, the state has responsibility to ensure his safety from himself and others.”

Castro was arrested in May for kidnapping Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus between 2002 and 2004, imprisoning them in his home for a decade, and regularly raping and abusing them. They were finally rescued after Berry managed to break through a screen door and alert a neighbor.

Knight, who reportedly will require facial reconstruction surgery due to Castro’s abuse, was impregnated but forced to miscarry on multiple occasions because Castro thought she was mentally disabled. Castro did, however, father a child with Berry.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) began reviewing the case Wednesday, along with another independent investigation by the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The DRC investigation includes “a mortality review . . . to thoroughly review all pertinent medical and mental health care records concerning inmate Castro and information surrounding the incident.”

“Prison officials must address these issues, not only to fully account for how Mr. Castro was able to commit suicide, but also to prevent this from occurring again,” Link said.

“Unfortunately, mental illness is all too common in our prisons, as our justice system increasingly is used to criminalize those with mental illness rather than provide them with treatment,” she added. “Those who do not enter prison with severe mental illness are likely to develop issues given the severe prison atmosphere."

Dr. Gregory Saathoff, a forensic psychiatrist from the University of Virginia who works with the FBI and other federal agencies, testified during Castro’s sentencing hearing that a mental competency assessment of Castro “was done by one of the most respected forensic psychiatrists in the country, Dr. Phillip Resnick, who found no psychiatric illness whatsoever.”

Resnick said Thursday that he did not anticipate that Castro would commit suicide.