Ariel Castro, the man who imprisoned three young women for more than a decade, pled ‘not guilty’ in an Ohio Court this morning. His lawyer’s intent is to avoid the death penalty.
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.
He is also charged with one count of aggravated murder of a fetus for allegedly forcibly causing an abortion.
Castro’s lawyer Craig Weintraub, held a news conference after the plea was made in the courtroom. He said 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.
Castro held the young women prisoner in his Cleveland home. Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, were often chained to a pole in the basement, to a radiator, or in a van. Castro kept them as sex slaves, and he and Amanda Berry produced a female child, who is now six years old. They had all accepted a ride with Castro, who remained an acquaintance of the DeJesus family after her kidnapping. They were 14, 16 and 20 years old.
Berry, now 27, was forced to deliver her baby in a child’s wading pool, to prevent making a mess in the home.
Knight, who is now 32, was forced to abort five pregnancies. He would starve her and “repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried,” according to authorities.
Knight was also forced to deliver Berry’s child. She was told that if the baby died, she would die as well. When the baby stopped breathing, she brought it back to life through mouth to mouth resuscitation.
None of the women saw a doctor throughout their captivity.
The revelation that the three women were alive occurred on May 6th, when Amanda Berry called out to a neighbor. He helped her and her child out of their prison, and took them to his home. Berry called 911: “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.”
When the authorities arrived, they rescued the other two women, and arrested Castro a short time later.
He has been held on an eight million dollar bond.
Berry and DeJesus re-united with their families. Michelle Knight remained in a secluded ‘safe house.’ While she was in the hospital, she visited briefly with her mother, who now lives in south Florida, and her grandmother. At her request, she had no other visits, and left the hospital for an undisclosed location.
“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,” said lawyer James Wooley, on behalf of the three women, in a statement.
At the suggestion by his attorney, Castro pled guilty, hoping to avoid a death sentence.
The Guardian Express