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Credit: Aaron Josefczyk Reuters

At Thursday’s emotional, 4-hour sentencing hearing, Cleveland murderer, rapist, and kidnapper Ariel Castro said, “I am not a monster. I am sick.”  He denied he was a violent person and said he was a “happy person inside” but suffered from a porn addiction.

Castro, who interrupted the judge several times during the hearing, denied the murder charge for the death of the unborn baby of Michelle Knight: “There was never any evidence of that. But I didn’t want to put these women through anymore psychological…so that’s why I pled guilty to that. But there was never no evidence of a fetus. That never happened. ” Court documents revealed that  Castro “kicked her in the stomach, jumped on her stomach, and starved her for days to terminate the pregnancy.”

Judge Michael Russo said, “Mr. Castro, you talked with your attorneys and you made the decision to plead the count as indicted, right?”

“Yes, that’s correct. But I never killed anyone. I am not a murderer.”

Ariel Castro, who pleaded guilty to 937 charges, including rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder related to the kidnapping and captivity of Amanda Berry, Berry’s daughter Jocelyn, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight in Cleveland, Ohio, over the course of 11 years, was formally sentenced on Thursday. Castro had previously agreed to a sentence of life plus 1000 years of incarceration in order to avoid the death penalty for the murder of Knight’s unborn child, whom he fathered.

During the hearing, which the victims attended, Castro claimed that sex with the young women was mostly consensual and that they asked him for sex. “As God as my witness, I never tortured these victims, I never beat them,” he claimed, despite volumes of evidence to the contrary. He said, “These girls were not virgins and had been with multiple partners before me. I did not prey on these women.”

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Michelle Knight was the only victim who spoke at the hearing:

Ariel Castro, I remember all the times you came home … and talked about other things and said at least I didn’t kill you.  You took 11 years of my life away and I have got it back. I spent 11 years in hell and now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome this. From this moment on, I won’t let this affect me. I will live and you will die a little every day as you think about it.

Russo scolded Castro for claiming he was a victim: “You are a victimizer.” He said Castro should not receive anything other than consecutive sentences for the multiple charges: “You are too dangerous.”

Judge Russo sentenced him to lifetime incarceration without the possibility of parole on the murder charge. He then began the agonizing process of reading the hundreds of rape, kidnapping, and sexual predator charges and sentenced Castro to hundreds of years of incarceration.

In imposing consecutive lifetime sentences that amount to 1000 years to life, Russo said, “The harm is so unusual in a completely negative sense that you took three young women out of the significant relationships they had with their families and their community at a time in their lives and you treated them like slaves, as if they were not people, like they were sex objects.”

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Russo ordered Castro not to contact any of the victims. Castro asked if that included his daughter, born to DeJesus while in captivity. Russo noted that Castro could file for parental rights, but that his no-contact order was in effect.

Sir, there is no place in this city, there is no place in this country, indeed there is no place in this world for those who enslave others, those who sexually assault others, or those who brutalize others. For ten years you preyed upon three young women. You subjected them to harsh and violent conduct. You felt you were dominating them but you were incorrect. You could not take away their dignity. Although they suffered terribly, Miss Knight, Miss DeJesus, and Miss Berry did not give up hope. They have persevered. In fact, they prevailed. These remarkable women again have their freedom, which is the most precious aspect of being an American. Mr. Castro, you forfeited that right. You will now become a member of the Dept. of Rehabilitation and Correction. You will be confined for the remainder of your days. You are hereby remanded for transport to the Lorain Correctional Institution.

Judge Russo then addressed the victims as Castro turned and looked at them:

Now for Miss Knight, Miss DeJesus, and Miss Berry as well as her daughter, we celebrate your future. We celebrate the faithfulness of your families, your friends, and and all others in this community who so fervently believed you were alive. On behalf of the judges and the staff of this court, we wish each of you success and a sense of peace.

Michelle Knight smiled as the judge addressed her directly, clearly relieved that the ordeal was over.