By Jane Sutton and Kim Palmer
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The son of the Ohio man who held three women captive for years said on Monday that he was happy his father pleaded guilty in a deal that spared him the death penalty and spared his victims from repeated court appearances.
"In death penalty cases, you end up in court a lot and so they come back a lot more often," Anthony Castro said on Monday on NBC News' "Today" program in his first television interview. "I think this way is a lot better because he's sent himself away and he will be away for the rest of his life."
Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 53, pleaded guilty last week in Cleveland to 937 charges, including kidnapping and repeatedly raping three young women he abducted between 2002 and 2004. He also pleaded guilty to murder for impregnating one of the young woman and causing her to miscarry by assaulting her.
Castro is scheduled to be formally sentenced on August 1 after he agreed to serve life without parole, plus 1,000 years.
The women were chained and tied up for long periods and subjected to starvation, beatings and sexual assaults. On May 6, neighbors heard cries for help from Amanda Berry, 27, and helped her escape Castro's house along with her six-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro.
Berry then called 911 and police rescued Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, from the second floor of the house.
Anthony Castro, 31, said he felt "overwhelming joy" when he first heard the women had been found and freed but was horrified when he learned from Berry's 911 call that it was his father who had held them.
Anthony Castro had been a journalism student at Bowling Green University in Ohio in 2004 when he wrote an article about the three missing women.
"I was shocked because of the magnitude of such a crime. I don't think I could imagine anyone doing that, let alone finding out it was my own flesh and blood, my father," Anthony Castro said.
Anthony Castro, who lives and works in Columbus, is the only son born to Ariel and Grimelda Figueroa. They had three daughters, including Emily Castro, who is in prison serving a 25-year sentence after being convicted of attempting to murder her baby daughter in 2007 by slashing her throat.
He said his father was violent, "incredibly strict" and regularly beat him and his mother, who died last year.
Figueroa accused Castro of abuse in 1989. Castro pleaded no contest and was given a year of probation. Figueroa was granted full custody of their children by 1997, according to Cuyahoga County court documents.
After a court hearing last week, Berry was seen on the stage of a Cleveland concert waving and shaking the hands of members of the cheering crowd. It was the first public appearance by any of the women since their rescue.
DeJesus also appeared in a short interview with a local Cleveland TV news station with her mother on Sunday. In the interview with WEWS, Nancy Ruiz, DeJesus' mother, told a reporter her daughter has been in contact with the other women and has visited each other.
Anthony Castro said he had visited his father's fortress-like home a few times in the last decade but had no idea the women were there and did not suspect anything was wrong. He stayed outside or entered through the back door and never went beyond the kitchen, he said.
Even when he lived there as a child, he said, the basement, attic and garage were locked, the windows were nailed shut and parts of the house were off-limits, he said.
His son said he will not visit his father in prison and has nothing to say to him.
According to jail logs, Castro has only been visited by his mother and sister during the nearly three months he has been incarcerated.
"He's been lying to his family for the past 10, 11 years at every possible turn," Anthony Castro said. "I have no trust in him. I can't see myself going to visit him and giving him the opportunity to face me and lie to me again."
(Reporting by Jane Sutton and Kim Palmer; Editing by Maureen Bavdek, Mary Wisniewski and Steve Orlofky)