What's next for Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro?

Keith Wagstaff
The Week
Ariel Castro talks with his public defender during his arraignment in Cleveland, May 9.

Castro is pleading not guilty. His lawyers insist their client is not a "monster."

Ariel Castro, 52, will plead not guilty to four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape, his attorneys told WKYC-TV.

Castro is accused of kidnapping and raping Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus and keeping them trapped in his Cleveland home for a decade. 

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Craig Weintraub and Jaye Schlachet, Castro's attorneys, certainly face an uphill battle. Last week, DNA tests identified Castro as the father of the 6-year-old girl who Berry gave birth to in captivity.

Police also reportedly found a suicide note written by Castro in 2004 in which he admitted to being "a sexual predator" and wondered why he was looking for another victim because "I already had 2 in my possession." Even members of Castro's immediate family have turned on him.

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Between what Castro admitted to investigators, the testimony of the three girls, and evidence from the house, says Mansfield Frazier at The Daily Beast, prosecutors have enough evidence to "easily put him away for 10 lifetimes."

Of course, Weintraub and Schlachet see things differently, and are trying to paint a more sympathetic picture of Castro. They told WKYC-TV that Castro isn't a "monster" and that he was "extremely committed to the well being and positive future for his daughter, who he loves dearly."

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So how are his attorneys going to explain why police found the kidnapping victims in Castro's home?

"That fact will be disclosed as the case progresses," Weintraub told WKYC-TV. "I am aware of how he came into contact with them."

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There is a good chance that Castro's lawyers will seek a change of venue away from Cuyahoga County.

Tim McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor handling the case, hasn't ruled out pursuing aggravated-murder charges. Knight has told investigators that she was impregnated five times by Castro, who allegedly starved and beat her so she would miscarry. If Castro is charged with aggravated murder, he could face the death penalty — a move some oppose for legal reasons, and because seeking the ultimate punishment based on the miscarriages diverts attention from Knight, Berry, and DeJesus, who endured unimaginably brutal treatment for years.

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Plus, pursuing the death penalty for fetal homicide — a difficult thing to do with no medical records — could drag the case on for a long time, forcing the victims to testify and be bombarded with media coverage for years and years to come.

Castro is currently being held on $8 million bail in Cuyahoga County Jail and is under suicide watch. 

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