What does a son say when his father becomes one of the most reviled criminals in modern American history?
If you’re Ariel Anthony Castro, who shares a first and last name with the man who kidnapped and kept three young women in captivity for about a decade, you say it’s time to look forward, not back.
In a guest piece written for the Cleveland Plain Dealer this weekend, the son of Ariel Castro asked, “Now what?”
“If my father’s life and death can lead to changes in how we deal with sexual predators, domestic violence, mental illness and, yes, prison safety, then we should have those discussions,” wrote Ariel Anthony Castro. “If we can prevent a repeat here or anywhere, then justice truly will have been served amid all the broken pieces my father left behind.”
His father, Ariel Castro, 53, committed suicide on Sept. 3, a month after a judge guaranteed he would die in prison by handing down a life sentence plus 1,000 years. Castro had pleaded guilty to rape, kidnapping and abuse, ostensibly to avoid the death penalty; in exchange, his victims were spared having to testify about their suffering in court.
In the end, Ariel Anthony Castro, who said he was unaware of his father’s victims before their escape in May, also became a kind of victim of his father’s notoriety.
“Cameras showed up at my workplace, reporters blasted my Facebook friends for information about me,” Ariel Anthony Castro wrote in the Plain Dealer. “The national networks set up shop, and I watched as person after person who barely knew my father lined up to get their moment on national television. I hid at a friend’s house after the news broke because I was shaken to the core, and I didn’t want to be forced to grieve with cameras and microphones pointed at me.”
Ariel Anthony Castro eventually went on NBC to talk about his father, where he confessed that he probably would never visit his dad.
“I have no trust in him,” he said then. “I can’t see myself going to visit him and giving him the opportunity to face me and lie to me again.”
Over the weekend, the Cleveland Plain Dealer also ran a long feature about the day Ariel Anthony Castro discovered that his father had been arrested. The disappearances of Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus in particular had gripped Cleveland, and in that story, the younger Castro recalled talking to elated friends and family members about their rescue.
Shortly after, he realized that his father had been responsible for their kidnappings, and his personal hell began.
Now, with his father dead, Castro wrote that he had been unable to bring himself to go see the man who had raised him. After the suicide, he once again found himself facing a media gauntlet.
“I had reporters, in revoltingly poor taste, seeking me out for a knee-jerk reaction, wanting to know the whereabouts of my father’s remains, waiting for me outside the Franklin County coroner’s office,” Castro wrote. “I just wanted to get through those horrible days without NewsChannel 5 breathing down my neck.”
But ultimately, he said, “I am not my father, and I can’t explain his actions or be held accountable for something I never knew he was doing.”
Castro wrote of feeling “horrified and disgusted and angered when I got the news of the unthinkable crimes my father committed,” and said his father deserved to be punished. Now, he added, “my father’s punishment is between he and his maker.”