Ariel Castro Agrees To Plea In Ohio Kidnap Case

(AP) — The Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive in his
home for about a decade agreed to plead guilty Friday in a deal to avoid
the death penalty.

In exchange, Ariel Castro would be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years, prosecutors said.

was in court Friday morning to enter the guilty plea. When asked if he
understood he would never be released from prison, Castro said: “I do
understand that, your honor.”

He added, “I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me.”

deal comes more than a month after a statement issued on behalf of the
women said they were “hopeful for a just and prompt resolution” and had
“great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court.”

53, had been scheduled for trial Aug. 5 on a 977-count indictment. The
indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to
accusations that he punched and starved one woman until she miscarried.
The former school bus driver also was charged with hundreds of counts of
kidnapping and rape, plus assault and other counts.

was accused of repeatedly restraining the women, sometimes chaining
them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The
charges alleged Castro assaulted one woman with a vacuum cord around her
neck when she tried to escape.

The sticking
point on a plea deal had been whether the prosecutor would rule out the
death penalty. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor had kept that issue under

The three women 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 the
family of one of the women and even attended vigils over the years
marking her disappearance.

The women escaped
Castro's house May 6 when one of them kicked out part of a door and
called to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested within hours and has
remained behind bars.

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

fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry, authorities said. They
allege that on the day the child was born, Christmas 2006, Castro raped
one of the other women, who had helped deliver the baby.

Berry told authorities that she, her child and the other women never saw a doctor during their captivity.

Knight said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved and repeatedly punched her.

Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of
sexual assault, but the names of the three women were widely circulated
after they disappeared, and they appeared in an online video thanking
the public for its support. They otherwise have sought to stay out of
sight and have appealed for privacy.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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