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Ohio kidnapper may have died in cell during sex act: state probe

Ariel Castro, 52, is shown in this Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office booking photo taken on May 9, 2013. Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office/Han
Ariel Castro, 52, is shown in this Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office booking photo taken on May 9, 2013. Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office/Han

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro, found hanging in his prison cell last month, may not have committed suicide but died accidentally while performing a sex act, an Ohio state investigative report suggested on Thursday.

The report by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction also said prison officials had falsified logs and failed to make scheduled checks on Castro's cell September 3, the day of his death.

Castro had been serving a sentence of life plus 1,000 years for the abduction, torture and detention of three young Cleveland women. He was taken off suicide watch in June, but was supposed to have been monitored every 30 minutes by guards.

"There appears to be no known, substantiated motivation for the self-inflicted death," the report found.

The state report said Castro's trousers and underwear were pulled around his ankles when he was found hanging from a bed sheet, although the relevance of the finding is "unclear." Those facts were relayed to the Ohio State Highway Patrol for "consideration of the possibility of auto-erotic asphyxiation," the report said.

Auto-erotic asphyxiation is a form of sexual masochism in which oxygen flow to the brain is reduced in order to enhance the pleasure of masturbation.

The two Ohio correctional officers on duty when Castro was found have been put on leave and face discipline and possible dismissal, according to the report. Ohio prisons were already under increased scrutiny at the time of Castro's death, which came about a month after the suicide of Ohio death row inmate Billy Slagle.

Castro had pleaded guilty in August to more than 900 counts including kidnapping, rape, and murder, after three women and a 6-year-old girl he fathered escaped from his home on May 6. The kidnap victims - Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32 - had been missing up to 11 years.

The report said Castro left no suicide note, and was found with a Bible open to John, Chapters 2 and 3. There were also pictures of his family, arranged in a "poster-board fashion."

In documents found in his cell, Castro complains about verbal harassment from other inmates and staff, and conveys his fear that someone was tampering with his food, according to the report. The report said the complaints about the food appeared to be unjustified.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer, Writing by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Greg McCune and Gunna Dickson)

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