Ariel Castro, 52, sits with his head down between his attorneys Jaye Schlachet (R) and Craig Weintraub (L) during his pre-trial hearing on charges including rape, kidnapping and murder in Cleveland, Ohio. Credit: Reuters Ariel Castro, 52, will serve a life sentence.
Credit: Reuters

Accused Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro appeared in court Friday to formally accept a plea deal under which he will serve a life sentence for kidnapping and raping three women and holding them captive for years.

Several media outlets reported on Thursday that prosecutors had offered Castro a deal to avoid a trial, and spare him the death penalty.

Under the offer, Castro, 53, will spend the rest of his life behind bars plus 1,000 years, without the possibility of parole.

 

Castro was charged with 977 counts, including kidnapping and rape, for the abduction and imprisonment of Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27.

The women disappeared beginning in 2002 and were freed from Castro's home in a rundown area of Cleveland on May 6. Also freed was a 6-year-old girl who, according to DNA evidence, was fathered by Castro with Berry during her captivity.

The women had been bound for periods of time in chains or ropes and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults, according to court documents and a police report. Avoiding a trial will spare them from having to testify.

Castro had also been charged with murder under a fetal homicide law for allegedly forcing one of the women to miscarry.

Under Ohio law, prosecutors could have sought the death penalty for the murder charge, and had said they were considering it.

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