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Chicago, Illinois -
Few tears have been shed over the apparent suicide of Ariel Castro, who endured just a month in prison before ending his life, but had held three women as sex slaves for a decade.
At least one psychologist said those three women, with Castro dead, are now being denied a sense of justice, as he got to choose his fate whereas they did not.
Castro, 53, was found hanged on Tuesday in the Ohio prison where he was serving a life sentence.
It was an abrupt ending to a sordid case that shocked the United States and the world with revelations of depravity and brutality carried out in an ordinary Cleveland home.
Castro was being held in protective custody, which means he was in a cell by himself and guards checked on him every 30 minutes.
Officials tried in vain to resuscitate Castro after his body was discovered at 9.20pm on Tuesday (01h20 GMT on Wednesday) at the Correctional Reception Centre in Orient. He was pronounced dead about 90 minutes later.
Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus an additional 1 000 years for the repeated rape and beatings of his victims.
His crimes - committed when he imprisoned the women in a so-called “house of horrors” - led to an outpouring of national pity for the three victims, Amanda Berry, now 27; Gina DeJesus, 23; and Michelle Knight, 32.
They were abducted separately between 2002 and 2004 at the ages of 14, 16, and 20 and held captive in a working class neighbourhood of Cleveland.
Berry, DeJesus and Knight did not immediately release a statement in reaction to Castro's death. However, prosecutors called him a degenerate molester and said he took the coward's way out.
“This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty in a scathing statement.
However, Dr Linda Papadopoulos, a Britain-based-based psychologist and author, called Castro's suicide a last slap to his victims.
“Going forward now these girls are going to have to find a way of healing without a sense of justice,” Papadopoulos told NBC news.
“We want the sense of justice when we heal. Sometimes we have to heal without it, and sadly that is what they will have to do.”
She added: “He decided his fate, something they were never ever ever able to do for themselves. He had ultimate control. To some extent this was in a way his last slap to their faces - 'I've got this over you'.”
Comments posted on the website of the main Cleveland newspaper, The Plain Dealer, were merciless.
“Adios diablo, may you burn for 1 000 years, just like you were sentenced,” one said.
However Maria Castro Montes, a cousin of Castro, told CNN she found it “hard to believe he had the courage to take his own life”, noting that she hoped her cousin's death will allow his victims to move on with their lives.
“They would never find peace if he were still in prison,” Montes said.
“Maybe this is for the best... maybe this is the only way he will be out of the spotlight.”
She said she cried when he learned that Castro was dead, because she she remembered happier times growing up with him and thought immediately of his victims and what effect his death might have on them.
Castro's attorney expressed frustration on Wednesday that his client was able to kill himself after having been removed from suicide watch.
“I know most of greater Cleveland will be looking on this day as joyous, but for his family this is anything but,” Craig Weintraub told the Plain Dealer.
“He's still a human being, this is still a civilised society. There's still an obligation to prevent our inmates from committing suicide.”
Prison authorities have launched an investigation into how Castro managed to kill himself.
His three victims escaped on May 6 when Berry managed to break open part of the front door and call out to a neighbour for help. She emerged from the dilapidated house with a young daughter who was fathered by Castro during her captivity.
More than 42kg of chains were found in the filthy, darkened home where the women were kept in locked rooms with boarded-up windows.
The house was demolished a few days after Castro was sentenced.
Castro pleaded guilty on August 1 after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty.
A tearful Michelle Knight said in emotional testimony before the court that death would have been “so much easier” for her tormenter.
“I spent 11 years in hell, and now your hell is just beginning,” Knight told Castro.
In a rambling quasi-apology to his victims - only Knight was present in the courtroom - Castro claimed he had acted on impulse as a result of sexual addiction.
“I'm not a monster. I'm sick,” he said then, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit.
Despite having pleaded guilty to 977 charges related to his victims' brutal ordeal - including terminating Knight's pregnancies by starving and beating her - Castro insisted he was not a violent man and that “there was harmony in that home”. - Sapa-AFP