The man accused of kidnapping three Cleveland women and repeatedly raping them will appear Friday in court and could agree to a plea bargain that would spare him the death penalty.
If Ariel Castro, 53, of Cleveland, does agree to a deal brokered by his defense attorneys and Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty, it also would spare the three women the agony of reliving the horrific details of the past decade on the witness stand.
The women were at times chained in his basement, endured beatings and sexual assaults, and permitted outside his home on only a couple of occasions, according to police and court documents.
The terms of a proposed deal have not been revealed, but late Thursday, a spokeswoman for Common Pleas Judge Michael Russo, who is presiding over the case, announced that the final pretrial hearing would be this morning and noted that the parties in the case have entered into plea negotiations. WKYC-TV in Cleveland reported Friday morning that Judge Russo said there will be no sentencing at the hearing.
McGinty's office declined to confirm whether a deal had been reached, and attorneys for Castro did not return phone messages left for them.
NBC News reports that prosecutors have offered Castro a deal of life without parole, plus 1,000 years.
Castro has been indicted on 977 charges, including rape, kidnapping and murder. Authorities say he beat and starved one of the women, who became pregnant while imprisoned at his west side Cleveland home, so she would have a miscarriage. That resulted in the aggravated murder charge, which carries the possibility of a death sentence.
Castro has pleaded not guilty to the charges, and a tentative trial date is set for Aug. 5.
Given the protracted legal maneuverings for high-profile criminal cases such as Castro's, which has drawn international attention, if a plea deal is accepted by Castro, it also would mean an extremely swift legal process for him.
It was only on May 6 that the three women — Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27 — were freed from Castro's home. Berry's 6-year-old daughter, whom authorities say was fathered by Castro during her captivity, also was freed.