Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Ariel Castro, the Ohio man accused of keeping three kidnapped women captive in his home for a decade, pleaded not guilty today to 329 counts of rape, torture and murder.
A bearded Castro remained silent during his first court appearance since his arrest in May, keeping his head down during a brief appearance in which his attorneys entered a plea for him.
Castro,52, is accused of kidnapping Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight and imprisoning them, sometimes restrained by chains, in his Cleveland home.
The former school bus driver is also accused of the aggravated murder of a fetus for allegedly forcibly causing an abortion in one of his victims that he is accused of impregnating, a charge that could potentially carry the death penalty.
After the court hearing, Castro's lawyer Craig Weintraub told a news conference that he hoped the two sides could work "towards a resolution to avoid a trial" and to avoid the death penalty for Castro. The lawyer urged prosecutors to drop the aggravated murder charge.
A grand jury indicted Castro 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.
Judge Lauren C. Moore called the charges against him a "hefty indictment" and agreed to his lawyer's request to waive his right to hear the charges read in court.
Castro is accused of kidnapping the women, imprisoning them in his home and repeatedly raping them.
One woman, Amanda Berry, 27, delivered Castro's baby while in captivity. That girl is now 6.
Another woman, Michelle Knight, 32, told investigators she became pregnant five times by Castro, but he punched her in the belly until she miscarried.
The women were freed in a dramatic rescue on May 6 when neighbors heard Berry screaming for help behind a closed door.
"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," she told a 911 dispatcher.
"We understand the legal process needs to run its course. That said, days like today are not easy. We are hopeful for a just and prompt resolution. We have great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court," lawyer James Wooley said on behalf of the three women.