Ariel Castro, 53, was found hanging in his cell around 9:20 p.m. Tuesday at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient, a community located south of Columbus in central Ohio, JoEllen Smith, Department of Rehabilitation and Correction spokesman, said early Wednesday.
Prison medical staff performed CPR before Castro was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m.
He was in protective custody because of the notoriety of his case, meaning he was checked every 30 minutes, but was not on suicide watch, Smith said. She said suicide watch entails constant observation.
Castro was also watched closely in Cuyahoga County Jail in the several weeks after his arrest and before his case was resolved by a guilty plea, with logs noting his activity every 10 minutes. He was taken off county jail suicide watch in early June after authorities determined he was not a suicide risk.
Castro's attorneys tried unsuccessfully to have a psychological examination of Castro done at the Cuyahoga County Jail, where Castro was housed before he was turned over to state authorities following his conviction, his attorney, Jaye Schlachet, told The Associated Press early Wednesday. Schlachet said he could not immediately comment further.
In an interview last month after Castro's conviction, Schlachet and attorney Craig Weintraub said their client clearly fit the profile of sociopathic disorder and that they hoped researchers would study him for clues that could be used to stop other predators.
The three women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They escaped May 6, when Amanda Berry, one of the women, broke part of a door and yelled to neighbors for help.
"Help me," she said in a 911 call. "I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years and I'm, I'm here, I'm free now."
The two other women were so scared of Castro that they held back initially even as police officers began to swarm the house. But quickly they realized they were free.
"You saved us! You saved us!" another of the captives, Michelle Knight, told an officer as she leaped into his arms.
Castro was arrested that evening. He had also fathered a child with Berry while she was in captivity; that girl was 6 years old when freed. A judge rejected Castro's request to have visiting rights with his daughter.
Elation over the women's rescue soon turned to shock as details emerged about conditions of their captivity. Investigators say they were bound with chains, repeatedly raped and deprived of food and bathroom facilities. Knight told investigators she was beaten and starved several times to force her to miscarry.
Messages left for the women's lawyers were not immediately returned early Wednesday.
Castro was sentenced Aug. 1 to life in prison plus 1,000 years on his guilty plea to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape.
Pastor Angel Arroyo, a friend of the family of Gina DeJesus (one of the kidnap survivors), said after learning of Castro's death, "He's a coward and took the easy way out." He would not comment on the family's reaction.
Reporting by ELAINE ARADILLAS and STEVE HELLING
Bill Pugliano / Getty; Inset: AP