Saturday November 28th, 2015 8:40PM

Castro avoids death penalty with plea

By The Associated Press
CLEVELAND, Ohio (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.

Castro was in court Friday morning to enter the guilty plea. When asked if he understood he would never be released from prison, Castro said: "I do understand that, your honor."

He added, "I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me."

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.

The women escaped Castro's house May 6 when one of them kicked out part of a door and called to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested within hours and has remained behind bars.

News that Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight had been found alive electrified the Cleveland area, where two of them were household names after years of searches, publicity and vigils. But elation soon turned to shock as allegations about their treatment began to emerge.

Castro fathered a 6-year-old daughter with Berry, authorities said. They allege that on the day the child was born, Christmas 2006, Castro raped one of the other women, who had helped deliver the baby.

Berry told authorities that she, her child and the other women never saw a doctor during their captivity.

Knight said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved and repeatedly punched her.

The Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the names of the three women were widely circulated after they disappeared, and they appeared in an online video thanking the public for its support. They otherwise have sought to stay out of sight and have appealed for privacy.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
S&P 500 index has its best year since 1997
The stock market closed out a record year with more all-time highs on Tuesday, giving U.S. indexes their biggest annual gains in almost two decades.
6:56PM ( 1 year ago )
Colorado readies for 'Green Wednesday' pot sales
Police were adding extra patrols around pot shops in eight Colorado towns that plan to allow recreational sales to anyone over 21 on Jan. 1.
1:52PM ( 1 year ago )
Kerry seeks framework for Mideast peace talks
A senior State Department official says Secretary of State John Kerry will try this week to get Israel and the Palestinians to agree on a framework for negotiating a final peace agreement, yet cautions against raising expectations for Kerry's latest round of shuttle diplomacy.
1:35PM ( 1 year ago )
U.S. News
Ethics laws set to take effect Jan. 1 in Georgia
After dominating much of the legislative session, a set of major ethics reforms is scheduled to take effect Jan. 1.
7:04PM ( 1 year ago )
Sex offender held in Hall County for failing to register
A 47-year-old man was booked into the Hall County Jail Tuesday, being held without bond for allegedly failing to register as a sex offender, his second such arrest.
6:09PM ( 1 year ago )
Pharmacy robberies may involve same suspect
Oakwood Police Tuesday afternoon released details in a pharmacy robbery they're investigating, similar to one that happened in the Hall County Tuesday morning.
5:46PM ( 1 year ago )
Local/State News
Run game, defense helps Dogs seal victory over Jackets, 9-win campaign
Mark Richt trotted over to a corner of Bobby Dodd Stadium, where the Georgia band played and the red-clad faithful had nothing but cheers for the embattled coach.
5:00PM ( 3 hours ago )
IRS phone scammers are making calls again in Hall Co.
Hall County authorities say there's been a resurgence of phone calls from scammers posing as IRS agents.
11:59AM ( 8 hours ago )
Molly the Firehouse Dog brings smiles to first responders, hospital patients
Molly is a well-known face around the Hall County Fire Department and Northeast Georgia Medical Center, where she serves to comfort others during times of stress.
10:26AM ( 10 hours ago )
Gainesville runoff election is Tuesday
A runoff election for a seat on the Gainesville City Council will be held Tuesday.
9:15AM ( 11 hours ago )
Deadline to sponsor Wreaths Across America at Alta Vista is Monday
Each holiday season, veteran grave sites at Alta Vista cemetery in Gainesville are adorned with wreaths as part of Wreaths Across America.
3:42PM ( 1 day ago )