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Coroner Stands By Ruling, Says No Evidence Ariel Castro Died From Auto-Erotic Asphyxiation

  • Courtesy Photos

     (Courtesy Photos)

  • Ariel Castro is led into Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland for a pretrial hearing on July 3, 2013.

    Ariel Castro is led into Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court in Cleveland for a pretrial hearing on July 3, 2013.  (A2013)

The medical examiner who ruled that Ariel Castro’s death was a suicide said she stands by her findings – even though a state report contradicts her and claims he died of autoerotic asphyxiation.

Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak said her office was never told the Ohio kidnapper’s pants were down, but that would not have changed her findings. While conducting the autopsy, Gorniak told the Cleveland Plain-Dealer, there was nothing to indicate he choked himself in his cell for sexual thrills.

“I did the autopsy myself. I saw the ligature. I saw the pictures of the cell,” she told CNN. “It was a suicide.”

A state patrol investigation, however, suggested the death was not intentional, given the fact that he was found with his pants and underwear around his ankles

In Castro's cell, officials found a Bible open to John, Chapters 2 and 3 and pictures of Castro's family arranged "in a poster-board fashion," according to the report.

The report also says two guards falsified logs documenting the number of times they checked on Castro before he died.

Castro, 53, was found hanging from a bedsheet just weeks into a life sentence. He pleaded guilty in August to kidnapping three women off the streets, imprisoning them in his home for a decade and repeatedly raping and beating them.

Autoerotic asphyxiation is a sexual act in which people achieve sexual satisfaction while choking themselves into unconsciousness.

Castro did not leave a suicide note, a full psychological evaluation had found no sign he was seriously mentally ill or contemplating suicide, and investigators could find no reason he would have taken his own life, according to the report.

In fact, the day Castro died, the warden recommended he serve his time apart from the other inmates, an option Castro expressed interest in, the investigation found.

The findings were forwarded to the Ohio Highway Patrol "for consideration of the possibility of autoerotic asphyxiation," the report said.

The Highway Patrol said it would have no comment pending the release of its own investigation.

Surveillance video indicates guards did not do at least eight required checks on Castro the afternoon and evening before his death and falsified the logs, according to the report. Two checks were done properly just before Castro died.

The report also says staff failed to make sure Castro watched a suicide-prevention video when he first arrived in August.

Similar allegations of falsified logs have been made against two other guards in the Aug. 4 suicide of a death row inmate just days before he was to be executed.

After release of Thursday's report, the prison system announced that supervisors will conduct random checks at all prisons to make sure guards are doing their rounds.

Castro's lawyer brushed off the suggestion of autoerotic asphyxiation and said the prison bears responsibility for his death.

The prison guards union accused the state of scapegoating employees instead of dealing with overcrowding and violence behind bars.

The prison report also found that an ambulance was significantly late in arriving but that the delay probably didn't affect the outcome.

In court, Castro blamed his problems on an addiction to pornography. He described himself as a sex addict and said: "I'm not a monster. I'm sick."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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