Ariel Castro’s rambling, 16-minute statement in court has shed some light on the type of person he is, experts say: a likely sexual sadist who knew exactly what he was doing when he abducted and held three women captive, but who refuses to take responsibility for his crimes.
“I'm not a monster, I'm sick,” Castro said in a Cleveland courtroom Thursday, before a judge sentenced him to life in prison with no chance of parole plus 1,000 years for abducting, raping and beating Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight over the course of more than a decade.
Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Gregory Saathoff testified that despite Castro’s claims to the contrary, he had "no psychiatric illness whatsoever."
- Ariel Castro's rambling court statement
Jim Van Allen, a former manager of the Ontario Provincial Police criminal profiling unit, agrees with Saathoff’s assessment of Castro.
“He is not sick in the traditional definition of mental illness — on any standard,” Van Allen said in a phone interview after watching Castro address the court.
“Whatever hard knocks he’s had in life, whatever disadvantages he’s had, he has chosen to go this route. No one chooses to be schizophrenic and have hallucinations and everything else.”
But Castro may have a personality disorder, he said. Many of the allegations brought against him fit with a “pattern of offending” known as sexual sadism.
The 53-year-old agreed to a plea deal last week to avoid the death penalty for over 900 charges, including kidnapping and rape.
“This is like the Paul Bernardo type of guy,” Van Allen said, referring to the convicted rapist and murderer from Scarborough, Ont. “Not all of them kill their victims.”
After getting caught, sexual predators often try to avoid taking responsibility for what they've done, he said, partly because they know how much society at large, and other prison inmates, feel about people who commit crimes such as rape.
In his court statement, Castro blamed a sex addiction for his crimes. He also said that "most of the sex" was consensual, and that there was “harmony” in the house in which the three women were chained.
"All these things are obviously not the case, but in his world they probably are," said Alasdair Goodwill, a forensic psychologist and professor at Ryerson University. "He’s making all these justifications to himself, distorting the situation to make it look favourable to himself so that he can be at peace with what he’s doing.”
Some of the outlandish statements made by Castro could lead many people to dismiss him as a person who had no firm handle on reality. But Mary Ellen O'Toole, a retired criminal profiler with the FBI, said that doesn't appear to have been the case.
“There was just a real amazing lack of empathy for the victims," she said. "But the important point here is that he’s not 'crazy' at all.”
“In my opinion, Ariel Castro was on live TV manifesting traits of psychopathy. And psychopathy’s not a mental illness, it’s a personality disorder and it’s distinguished by a stunning lack of conscience — no remorse or empathy for what they do. They’re very arrogant individuals.”
She also said it was dangerous to label Castro as a “monster,” because it suggests that sexual predators such as him are easy to identify as a threat.
“People who do these horrible things don’t physically look horrible. They fit in with their neighbourhoods and they appear to live normal lives,” O'Toole said. “So the lesson is, how do we spot them ahead of time so they don't get to the point that they’re doing what Ariel Castro does?”