Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro may have died from autoerotic asphyxiation, according to a new report that also says guards falsified prison observation logs and made other mistakes while monitoring him before his Sept. 3 suicide.
Castro instantly became one of America's most notorious criminals in May after police discovered three young women who had been kidnapped, raped and held in his home for roughly a decade. His conviction, life sentence and even his death provoked little sympathy from a disgusted public.
Yet members of his family, who had denounced his crimes, also demanded that officials hold themselves accountable for Castro's safety in prison. An investigation of his death by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction revealed Thursday that some guards did not make all of their required rounds and falsified reports to say that they did.
Two staff members have been put on leave as a result, the report said.
"Rounds were not properly completed. Post log books were falsified. There was no satisfactory verification process in place," the report said, noting that in the seven hours leading up to Castro's death, guards had apparently skipped eight of their half-hourly observations, according to video footage that was checked against guard logs.
A guard, however, had checked on Castro half an hour before he was found hanging in his cell, a discovery that also happened during a routine check.
Craig Weintraub, Castro's defense attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The report also revealed that Castro, after receiving mental health screening on entering the Lorain Correctional Institution in Grafton, Ohio, did not appear to have any mental health disorders or suicidal thoughts.
Those findings led officials to conclude in the report that there was no "substantiated" reason for why he committed suicide. He left no note, made no obvious overtures.
This led to one of the report's most startling suggestions.
"He was hanging from a hinge in the window of his cell by a sheet wrapped around his neck. His pants and underwear were pulled down to his ankles. The relevance of this finding is unclear. These facts, however, were relayed to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for consideration of the possibility of autoerotic asphyxiation."
Autoerotic asphyxiation is a sexual practice in which someone tries to partially suffocate themselves while masturbating in order to reach a more intense climax. Deaths from autoerotic asphyxiation are rare, but not unheard of.
The report made no conclusions about whether Castro had indeed killed himself that way, but added, "No other immediate observations about the scene led to conclusions about the motivation for the self-inflicted death."
[Update, 2:30 p.m., Oct. 10: Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak, who performed the autopsy on Castro’s body, played down the report’s suggestion Thursday. She told Cleveland.com that she didn’t see evidence pointing to Castro’s death being caused by autoerotic asphyxiation. “That’s why I called it a hanging suicide” and not an accident, she said.]
A Bible in Catro's cell was found opened to John chapters 2 and 3, in which Jesus turns water into wine, and which also contains the famous passage: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Castro also had pictures of his family arranged in "a poster-board fashion." The report noted that family members had visited twice in the weeks before his death, on Aug. 12 and Aug. 26, but officials added that "no significant events were reported from these visits."
The report also detailed that Castro had written down complaints about being verbally harassed by prison staff and other inmates, and that he was so worried about his food being poisoned that he sometimes refused to eat, flushing the food down his toilet.
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