CLEVELAND (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.
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, 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.
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.