Prison spokeswoman JoEllen Smith is cited as saying that Ariel Castro was found hanging in his cell at 9:30pm (2:30am UK time) last night.
Prison medical staff performed CPR before he was transported to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, she said.
Castro was sentenced to life in prison plus 1,000 years after pleading guilty to 937 counts including kidnapping and rape.
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It comes after security was stepped up around the country following the Manchester Arena attack which killed 22 people.
A murderer nicknamed 'Houdini' after escaping the death penalty seven times has been given the lethal injection.
The distress signal sparked a police hunt in the area to find the person or group who made it.