One of the most notorious sex-crimes offenders in history committed suicide overnight, just a month after bargaining to avoid the death penalty.  Ariel Castro, who was charged with almost a thousand counts related to the kidnapping and enslavement of three young girls for more than a decade and the murders of their unborn children, managed to hang himself in his cell, even though the Ohio prison had him in protective custody due to his mental state and his infamy:

Kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro was found hanged in his jail cell just a month after being sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years for holding three women captive in his Cleveland home, a prison official said early Wednesday.

Medical officials tried to revive the 53-year-old former school bus driver after he was discovered around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, authorities said. …

Castro had been housed in protective custody, which means he was in a cell by himself, and guards make rounds every 30 minutes at staggered intervals, according to the Ohio Bureau of Prisons.

Thirty-minute gaps leave plenty of time for preparation for hanging one’s self, apparently, as well as for the act itself.  Given the number of prisoners and the resources available, that may be the best Ohio prisons can manage to protect certain prisoners from others as well as from themselves.  Castro’s attorney wants an investigation — “This is a human being,” he told Today in an interview this morning — and there will certainly be one. Unless it was something other than suicide, though, it’s difficult to see how Ohio could have protected Castro any further.  A court found him legally sane, so a padded room wasn’t going to be the answer.

It’s curious in another sense, too.  Castro could have fought the charges and taken a chance with a jury, but he cut the deal to avoid the death penalty.  Instead, Castro ended up killing himself far sooner than Ohio could have arranged an execution.  Perhaps the finality of his situation sunk into his psyche, or maybe Michelle Knight’s parting words at his sentencing proved more prophetic than anyone realized:

“I spent 11 years in hell,” the 32-year-old Knight told her tormentor. “Your hell is just beginning.”

One psychologist calls this the “final slap” at his victims:

Kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro’s apparent prison suicide may deprive his victims of a vital sense that justice has been done, a leading psychologist said Wednesday.

“Going forward now these girls are going to have to find a way of healing without a sense of justice,” said Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, a U.K.-based psychologist and author. “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’.”

That may be what Castro intended, but it’s probably going to have the opposite effect for the three young women. As long as Castro was alive, he’d be the center of curiosity and conversation.  With his death, Ariel Castro becomes officially and irrevocably part of the past instead of the present.  That frees the victims in a very real sense to get back to being themselves, rather than a part of Castro’s story.