COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ariel Castro, who was sentenced to life in prison last month for abducting and sexually abusing three young women in his Cleveland home, hanged himself in his cell Tuesday night, according to preliminary results of an autopsy performed early Wednesday.
Castro, 53, was found at 9:20 p.m. ET hanging in his cell at the Correction Reception Center in Orient, Ohio, where he was being held under protective custody.
Prison medical staff attempted lifesaving measures on the scene before he was transported to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and pronounced dead at 10:52 p.m. ET, according to JoEllen Smith spokesperson with the Ohio Rehabilitation and Correction department.
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Franklin County coroner Dr. Jan Gorniak said preliminary results of the autopsy confirmed that Castro's death was a suicide and the cause of death was hanging. She said toxicology tests would be completed later.
Castro was not under suicide watch, but was being checked on by guards every 30 minutes. Smith said in a statement that a "thorough review" of the incident was underway.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty called Castro's suicide cowardly.
"This man couldn't take, for even a month, a small portion of what he had dished out for more than a decade," McGinty said in a statement. ""Let this be a message to other child kidnappers: There will be a heavy price to pay when you are caught. You won't enjoy the captive side of the bars."
The former Cleveland bus driver was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years on Aug. 1 for abducting three young women -- Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight -- over a 10-year period and holding them them captive in chains in his Cleveland home.
They were freed May 6 when Berry, who had a child fathered by Castro during her ordeal, managed to escape and alerted neighbors who called police to the rundown house on Seymour Ave.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said the city's focus would remain on the three victims.
"It is our sincere hope that they will continue to heal and recover," he said Wednesday. "I ask the community to continue to respect the privacy of the survivors so that they can move forward with their lives."
At his sentencing, Castro apologized for his actions but also attempted to blame his acts on an obsession with sex and his own history of being abused as a child, telling the court: "I am not a monster. I'm sick."
Knight, the only victim to face Castro in court, said she would never forgive him for more than a decade of daily abuse.
"I spent 11 years in hell," she told Castro at his sentencing.
"Now your hell is just beginning," she said. "I will overcome all that happened, but you're going to face hell for eternity."
Craig Weintraub, Castro's attorney, tells NBC's TODAY show Wednesday that his client's family was "devastated by the news" of his death.
He says relatives had visited Castro "a couple of time" since he was moved to the prison about two weeks ago.
The attorney says he realizes that many people will likely view Castro's death as "good riddance," but says he plans to "get to the bottom" of the circumstances surrounding his death. "This is a human being," he says.
As news spread of Ariel Castro's death, people in the neighborhood where he kept his victims shared their feelings about the development.
Rick Shear, who often visited Castro's block, knew the convicted rapist for more than 15 years as a friendly man who often barbecued and played guitar for his neighbors.
Wednesday, Shear said Castro's suicide illustrated that the man who imprisoned women couldn't face a similar fate as a prisoner himself.
"He's a coward," said Shear, 36, a retired tow truck driver. "He should have at least done 10 years to get a feel for what he put them girls through."
Shear said he was shocked this morning when his girlfriend told him Castro had committed suicide.
"I think the guards didn't care and they let him do it," Shear said, adding that someone like Castro should never have had the time to kill himself. "The jail facility he was in should have protected him and watched him more."
Still, now that Castro is gone, Shear said he feels bad for Castro's victims because they won't get the satisfaction of seeing their tormentor suffer. Instead, they'll know he took the easy way out, Shear said.
Elsie Cintron, 56, said she lived two houses down from Ariel Castro for more than 13 years.
She learned of Castro's death early Wednesday morning when her daughter called her around 1 a.m. For her, Castro's death is a good thing.
"I feel sorry but at the same time I am very happy that he is gone," she said. "Finally, we can call this a closed chapter."
Cintron, who has lived on Seymour Avenue since 1979, said many of her neighbors share her sentiments. She added however that she doesn't think this is the end for Castro.
"I'm pretty sure there is life after death and he will suffer," said Cintron, who works at a manufacturing company.
Social media users reacted to the news of Castro's death with both anger and joy. On Twitter, users used the hashtag or search term #deadgiveaway to indicate they were tweeting about Castro.
One Twitter poster wrote: "Ariel Castro is gonna rot in hell."
Amid cheers from onlookers, Castro's house was torn down last month by two demolition companies free of charge after Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said he wanted it razed so it would not become a macabre tourist attraction.