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Ariel Castro Update: Castro accepts plea deal to avoid death penalty, prosecutors recommend sentence of life without parole

Kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro, accused in the abduction of three women recently freed in Cleveland, Ohio, is seen in a mugshot photo, May 9, 2013. Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department

Ariel Castro enters the courtroom Friday, July 26, 2013, in Cleveland. Castro pleaded guilty to more than 900 charges, admitting to holding three women captive in his home for about ten years.
AP Photo/Tony Dejak

Updated 12:32 p.m. (CBS/AP) -- Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade, has accepted a plea deal that will spare him from the death penalty.

PICTURES: Ohio women missing for nearly a decade found alive

Castro faced 977 charges including rape, kidnapping, and aggravated murder stemming from the death of an unborn child of one of the victims. An amended indictment includes 937 charges, an attorney said. 

The terms of the deal offered by prosecutors call for no death penalty with a recommended sentence of life without parole plus an additional 1,000 years, attorneys said in court. A judge must decide whether to accept the sentence.

Castro pleaded guilty to numerous charges including aggravated murder, rape and kidnapping as the judge, Michael Russo, read through the indictment.

"Because of the plea deal, I will plead guilty," Castro replied, as Russo asked how he would plead to an aggravated murder count.

Castro appeared in court wearing glasses and an orange prison jumpsuit, sitting up in his chair and looking behind him into the courtroom before the hearing. The 53-year-old spoke in court as he answered questions from the judge, saying that he understands he is waiving his right to a trial in the case.

Castro also said he understood the deal means he will never be released from prison.

"I knew I was going to get pretty much the book thrown at me," Castro said. He said he was "fully aware" of the terms of the plea agreement and consented to it, adding, "There are some things I don't understand...because of my sexual problem."

Russo asked Castro whether he understood several of the charges against him included a "sexually violent predator" specification, a classification that mandates enhanced sentences for sex crimes in Ohio.

"The violent part I don't agree on, but yes," Castro said.

Castro repeatedly said that he didn't "care for the wording" of the sexually violent predator specification, but agreed to plead guilty to the charges nonetheless.

The deal also spares the victims in the case from testifying. 

Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight were found in Castro's Cleveland home in May after Berry kicked in a screen door and yelled to a neighbor for help. Berry, Dejesus and Knight disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004. 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.

Besides kidnapping and rape, the indictment charged Castro with seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.

Castro is 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 say one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

A six-year-old girl was also found in the home. Police later said the girl was the daughter of Berry and Castro.

"I would just like to state I miss my daughter very much," Castro said in court.

The home where the women were held captive is set to be demolished, attorneys said Friday. Russo asked Castro whether he understood he would be forfeiting the home and its contents to the state.

Attorneys for Castro said there were several personal items in the home the state agreed could be released. 

"I have other items in there I would like for them to release it to my family," Castro said.

Castro has been held on $8 million bail. A trial date had been set for Aug. 5, but the deal forestalls a trial. 

A sentencing hearing is set in the case for Aug. 1, a judge said. He said Castro will have a chance to speak at the hearing, along with the victims, if they choose.

Complete coverage of the Cleveland kidnapping case on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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