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Cleveland kidnapper tapes show he called victim's mother: NBC

Ariel Castro (C), 53, stands between attorneys Craig Weintraub (L) and Jaye Schlachet as his sentence is read to him by judge Michael J. Rus
Ariel Castro (C), 53, stands between attorneys Craig Weintraub (L) and Jaye Schlachet as his sentence is read to him by judge Michael J. Rus

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro made a phone call to the mother of one of his victims, saying her daughter was still alive and "she's my wife now," according to interrogation tapes obtained by NBC TV and broadcast on Friday.

Castro, who committed suicide on Tuesday by hanging himself with a bed sheet in his cell at an Ohio prison, told investigators after his arrest in May that he used the cell phone of victim Amanda Berry to call her mother, the tapes showed. He then quickly hung up before hearing any response.

It was unclear when Castro claimed to have made the call. Berry disappeared in 2003 and was held captive in Castro's house until May 6 when he left a bedroom door unlocked, allowing her to reach the front of the house, alert neighbors and escape.

"I know I let my guard down," Castro, a former school bus driver, told police during four hours of interrogation, the tapes obtained by NBC News and reported on the "Today" show.

Michelle Knight, 32, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Berry, 27, escaped with Berry's 6-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro. Knight had been held captive in his Cleveland house since 2002, Berry since 2003 and DeJesus since 2004.

Castro pleaded guilty to 937 criminal counts in July including rape, kidnapping and murder for beating and starving one of his victims, forcing her to miscarry.

In one recorded excerpt Castro is heard telling investigators about the call to Berry's mother: "I think I said something like, that I have her daughter and that she's OK and that she's my wife now, something like that, you know probably not the exact words."

An investigator asked what the mother's response was.

"I hung up so we wouldn't have a conversation," Castro said.

Castro was serving a life sentence for his crimes before his suicide.

Representatives of Castro's family took his body from the coroner's office Friday morning, said Dr. Jan Gorniak, the Franklin County coroner. The funeral and burial for Castro were likely to remain private, said his lawyer, Craig Weintraub.

In recorded excerpts of Castro's interrogation played by NBC, Castro spoke of the few times he thought his crimes would be discovered. First, when an ex-girlfriend heard a television playing in the room where Knight was being held.

He told interrogators he was also surprised that surveillance cameras outside the middle school DeJesus attended did not point to him as a possible suspect in her disappearance.

Cleveland FBI spokeswoman Vicki Anderson has confirmed Castro was never questioned in any of the cases until his arrest. She said that the tapes were not from FBI interviews.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office is reviewing the court files to determine what can be made public, office spokesman Joe Frolik said.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer and David Bailey; Editing by Grant McCool)

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