Cleveland • A man accused of holding three women captive in his run-down home in Cleveland for a decade and fathering a child with one of them has been indicted on 329 charges including murder, kidnapping and rape, prosecutors said.
A Cuyahoga County grand jury returned the indictment Friday against Ariel Castro, a former school bus driver fired last fall.
Castro, 52, is accused of kidnapping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight and holding them captive along with a 6-year-old girl he fathered with Berry.
The grand jury charged Castro with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying he purposely caused the unlawful termination of one of the women’s pregnancies. Castro also was indicted 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.
Castro’s attorneys have said he would plead not guilty to any indictment. Castro, during his brief arraignment last month, tried to hide his face, tucking his chin inside his shirt collar, and did not speak.
Castro is being held on $8 million bail. He has been taken off suicide prevention watch, jail officials said this week.
He was arrested May 6, shortly after Berry broke through a locked door, yelled to neighbors for help and escaped with DeJesus and Knight.
Berry, 27, told officers that she was forced to give birth in a plastic pool in the house so it would be easier to clean up. Berry said she, her baby and the two other women had never been to a doctor during their captivity.
Knight, 32, said her five pregnancies ended after Castro starved her for at least two weeks and “repeatedly punched her in the stomach until she miscarried,” authorities said.
She also said Castro forced her to deliver Berry’s baby under threat of death if the baby died. She said that when the newborn stopped breathing, she revived her through mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
The women had vanished separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. They haven’t spoken publicly since their rescue.
Castro’s two brothers were arrested with him but later were cleared of involvement in the case and were released.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said the indictment covers only the period from August 2002, when the first of the women disappeared, to February 2007.
Castro will be arraigned on the charges next week, and a trial judge will then be assigned.
The investigation continues, McGinty said. And when the indictment process is completed, the county prosecutor’s capital review committee will weigh whether the case is appropriate for seeking the death penalty.
Days after the women were rescued from Castro’s home, McGinty had said at a news conference that capital punishment “must be reserved for those crimes that are truly the worst examples of human conduct.”
“The law of Ohio calls for the death penalty for those most depraved criminals, who commit aggravated murder during the course of a kidnapping,” he added.
The Associated Press does not usually identify people who may be victims of sexual assault, but the names of the women were widely circulated by their families, friends and law enforcement authorities for years during their disappearances and after they were found.