The Cleveland man accused of holding three women captive in his home for about a decade pleaded guilty yesterday in a deal to avoid the death penalty.
In exchange, prosecutors recommended Ariel Castro be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years.
Castro, 53, said he understood that he would never get out of prison, saying he expected he was “going to get the book thrown at me”. He later added, “I knew that when I first spoke to the FBI agent when I first got arrested.”
Castro, wearing glasses for the first time in court, was far more interactive than in previous court appearances when he mostly kept his head down and eyes closed. During Friday’s hearing, he answered the judge’s questions in a clear, intelligible voice, saying he understood the proceedings and that he would never be released from prison.
Castro, who was born in Puerto Rico, said he could read and understand English well, but had trouble with comprehension. “My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.”
The 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”.
Castro had been scheduled for trial on Aug 5 on a 977-count indictment, but he was pleading guilty to 937 counts. The indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to accusations that he punched and starved one woman until she miscarried.
He 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 review.
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 on May 6 when one of them kicked out part of a door and called for help. Castro was arrested within hours and has remained behind bars.
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