Excerpts of testimony at Thursday's sentencing of convicted Cleveland kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro:
EXCERPTS FROM CASTRO'S TESTIMONY:
People are trying to paint me as a monster, and I'm not a monster. I'm sick. My sexual problems been so bad on my mind, I'm impulsive. ... I believe I am addicted to porn, to the point that it really makes me impulsive.
When I picked up the first victim, I hadn't even planned it that day. ... That day I went to Family Dollar, and I heard her, over saying something about she needed to get somewhere and I reacted on that. But when I got up that day, I did not say, "Oh, I'm going to get up and try to find some women." It wasn't my character. But I know it's wrong. I'm not trying to make excuses here. I know I'm 100 percent wrong for doing that."
I am not a violent person. I know what I did is wrong, but I'm not a violent person. I simply kept them here without being able to leave.
I'm not a monster. I'm a normal person. I am just sick. I have an addiction. Just like an alcoholic has an addiction. Alcoholics cannot control their addiction. That's why I couldn't control my addiction.
I would like to apologize to the victims, Amanda Berry, and Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight. ... I am truly sorry for what happened. ... I just hope that they can find it in their hearts to forgive me.
I ask God to forgive me, I ask my family and I apologize to my family also for putting them through all this. I want to apologize to the state of Ohio, the city of Cleveland. ... I just want to apologize to everyone who was touched by these events.
I do also want to mention that there was harmony in that home. There was harmony in that home. I was a good person. Being brought up, I never had a record. I just hope that they find it in their hearts to forgive me, and to maybe do some research on people who have addictions so they can see how their addiction takes over their lives.
MICHELLE KNIGHT'S COMPLETE STATEMENT
My name is Michelle Knight, and I would like to tell you what 11 years was like for me.
I missed my son every day. I wondered if I would ever see you again. He was only 2 1/2 years old when I was tooken. I look inside my heart and I see my son.
I cried every night. I was so alone. I worried about what would happen to me and the other girls every day.
Days never got shorter. Days turned into nights. Nights turned into days. The years turned into eternity.
I knew nobody cared about me. He told me that my family didn't care. He tormented me, constantly, even on holidays.
Christmas was the most traumatic day because I never got to spend it with my son.
Nobody should ever have to go through what I went through or anybody else, not even the worstest enemy.
Gina was my teammate. She never let me fall. I never let her fall. She nursed me back to health when I was dying from his abuse. My friendship with her is the only thing that was good out of this situation. We said we would someday make it out alive, and we did.
Ariel Castro, I remember all the times that you came home talking about what everybody else did wrong and act like you wasn't doing the same thing. You 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. Now your hell is just beginning. I will overcome all this that happened, but you will face hell for eternity.
From this moment on I will not let you define me or affect who I am.
I will live on. You will die a little every day. As you think about the 11 years and the atrocities you inflicted on us, what does God think of you hypocritically going to church every Sunday, coming home to torture us.
Death penalty will be so much easier. You don't deserve that. You deserve to spend life in prison. I can forgive you but I will never forget. With the guidance of God, I will prevail and help others that have suffered at the hands of others. Writing this statement gave me the strength to be a stronger woman, and know that's there's more good than evil.
I know that there's a lot of people going through hard times. But we need to reach out a hand and hold them and let them know that they're being heard.
After 11 years, I am finally being heard and it's liberating. Thank you all. I love you. God bless you.
CUYAHOGA COUNTY COMMON PLEAS COURT JUDGE MICHAEL RUSSO'S STATEMENT TO CASTRO
Sir, there's no place in this city, there's no place in this country, indeed there's no place in this world for those who enslave others, those who sexually assault others or those who brutalize others.
For more than 10 years you have 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've 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've now become a number with the Department of the Rehabilitation and Correction. You'll be confined for the remainder of your days.
EXCERPTS OF A STATEMENT READ BY BETH SERRANO, SISTER OF VICTIM AMANDA BERRY
The impact of these crimes on our family is something that we do not want to discuss with people we don't know. Even if I wanted to talk about it, it is impossible to put into words. For me, I lost my sister for all those years and thought it was forever. And we lost my mother forever. And she died not knowing. My mother and my sister, the two most loving people in the world. It is impossible to put into words how much it hurts.
Amanda is not here today. She is strong, beautiful, inside and out, and is doing better every day. She's not just my only sister, but the best friend I have and the best person I know. She does not want to talk about these things. She has not talked about these things even with me. And she does not want other people to talk about these things.
The main reason she does not want anyone to talk about these things, or be forced to talk about these things, is because she has a daughter. She would like to be the person who decides what to tell her daughter, when to tell her daughter, and how to tell her daughter certain things.
EXCERPTS OF A STATEMENT READ BY SYLVIA COLON, COUSIN OF VICTIM GINA DEJESUS
To Ariel Castro's family — we are saddened that you are burdened with this horror and will unfortunately forever be tied to these atrocities. Please know that we do not hold you accountable and pray that you can one day be whole again. Continue to love and support one another — we promise you that with this recipe you will be triumphant.
We stand before you and promise you that our beloved family member thrives. She laughs, swims, dances, and more importantly she loves and is loved. We are comforted in knowing that she will continue to flourish. She will finish school, go to college, fall in love, and if she chooses, will get married and have children. She is where we will continue to put in our energy. She lives not a victim, but as a survivor. Her insurmountable will to prevail is the only story worth discussing.
We ask that you continue to give her and our family privacy as we continue this journey back into society.
To Ariel Castro (in Spanish): May God have mercy on your soul.