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Prison report says Cleveland kidnapper committed suicide

Ariel Castro, 53, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing for kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, Ohio August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Aar
Ariel Castro, 53, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing for kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, Ohio August 1, 2013. REUTERS/Aar

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro's death in September was a suicide, not an accident, and cannot be attributed to a failure of prison staff, according to a prison report made public on Tuesday.

The report commissioned by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction confirmed a coroner's finding that Castro had hanged himself with a bed sheet in his prison cell just a month into a life sentence for the kidnapping, rape and beating of three women he held as prisoners for a decade.

An earlier department review of his death suggested it was possible Castro, 53, could have died accidentally while seeking sexual gratification through auto-erotic asphyxiation because his shorts were found around his ankles.

Ohio authorities found in a subsequent review that "all available evidence indicated that the death was a suicide," including the "careful placement" of a Bible and family pictures in his cell, the report said.

The new report said the condition of his clothing should not be considered conclusory of anything because Castro had lost 10 pounds during his month in prison and it was not unusual for him to be naked in his cell.

Castro had pleaded guilty in August to more than 900 counts, including kidnapping, rape and murder after three women and a six-year-old girl he fathered escaped from his home in May. Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, had been missing for up to 11 years.

Castro had been taken off suicide watch in June but was supposed to have been checked on every 30 minutes by guards.

The report released Tuesday concluded that the guards in Castro's wing falsified watch logs, a serious offense, but he had been seen alive 24 minutes before he was found hanging, which was within the time when he was supposed to be checked.

The report said Castro complained in journal entries about his treatment by prison staff, and inmates had told investigators that prison officers rejected Castro's requests for recreation, telling Castro, "You don't deserve it. Never gave them girls recreation." Those alleged statements could not be confirmed, the report said.

The report also said Castro arranged his belongings in his cell in what appeared to be a shrine with family photos, sheets of paper with family names and Bible verses written on them, and left a Bible open to the Gospel of John, "all seemingly assembled in preparation for death."

Ohio prisons have a suicide rate above the national average in 2013, and with an average daily population of about 50,419 inmates are at 130 percent of capacity.

The outside consultants were asked to assess all inmate suicides from 2012 and 2013 for their review of the suicides of the very high profile inmates Castro and Billy Slagle, who killed himself in August before his scheduled execution.

The consultants recommended more rigorous staff training and expanded involvement by mental health staff with high profile inmates.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer and Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Chris Reese)

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