Ohio Kidnapping Suspect Ariel Castro Pleads Not Guilty

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CLEVELAND
(AP) — A Cleveland man has pleaded not guilty to holding three women
captive in his home for a decade and raping them.

Fifty-two-year-old
Ariel Castro was arraigned Wednesday on an indictment charging him with
murder, kidnapping and rape in more than 300 counts.

The murder charge involves Castro's allegedly starving and punching a pregnant woman in captivity until she miscarried.

A
Cuyahoga  County grand jury returned the indictment
Friday against the former Cleveland school bus driver, who was fired
last fall.

His $8 million dollar bond was continued.

A grand jury charged
Castro with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying
he purposely caused the unlawful termination of one of the women's
pregnancies. He also was indicted on 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of
kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of
felonious assault and one count of possession of criminal tools.

Last
week's 142-page indictment covers only the period from August 2002,
when the first victim disappeared, to February 2007. Prosecutors say the
investigation will continue and they are leaving the door open to
pursuing a death penalty case against Castro.

News
that the women had been found alive electrified the Cleveland area,
where two of the victims were household names after years of searches,
publicity and vigils. But elation soon turned to shock as allegations
about their treatment began to emerge.

The
indictment against Castro alleges he repeatedly restrained the women,
sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or
inside a van. It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted
her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

Later, he moved them to upstairs rooms where they were kept as virtual prisoners, according to investigators.

All
the while, Castro continued driving a school bus and playing bass in
local bands, with fellow musicians saying they never suspected a thing.
He was fired as a bus driver last fall after leaving his bus unattended
for several hours.

Castro has been held on $8
million bail. Last week he was taken off suicide prevention watch in
jail. Cuyahoga County jail logs show him spending most of his time
sleeping, lying on his bunk, watching TV and occasionally drawing.

Castro was arrested May 6, shortly after one of the women broke through a door and yelled to neighbors for help.

She
told a police dispatcher in a dramatic 911 call: “Help me. I'm Amanda
Berry. I've been kidnapped, and I've been missing for 10 years, and I'm,
I'm here, I'm free now.”

The women – Berry,
Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – disappeared separately between 2002
and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each said they had
accepted a ride from Castro, who remained friends with DeJesus' family
and even attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.

The women haven't spoken publicly since their rescue.

Berry,
27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool
in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Berry said she, her baby
and the two other women rescued with her had never been to a doctor
during their captivity.

Knight, 32, said her
five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks
and “repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried,”
authorities said.

She also said Castro forced
her to deliver Berry's baby under threat of death if the baby died. She
said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived her through
mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

The picture of
Castro as a friendly musician began to erode soon after the women were
freed, as family members told of a man who terrorized his common-law
wife, beating her and locking her in an apartment and the same house
where the women were later kept.

Castro's two
brothers were arrested the same day but were released at a hearing a few
days later after it was determined they weren't aware of the activities
of which their brother is accused. They denounced him in later
interviews.

The Associated Press does not
usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the
names of the three women were widely circulated by their families,
friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their
disappearances and after they were found.



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