CLEVELAND - Ariel Castro pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and rape on Friday in the case of three Cleveland women kept in his Seymour Avenue house for roughly a decade.
Castro agreed to plead guilty to 937 counts in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole. Earlier this month, the 53-year-old was indicted on 977 counts, including two counts of aggravated murder for intentionally causes one of his victims to miscarry a pregnancy. The plea deal spares the victims from reliving their time in captivity during a lengthy trial, WEWS reported.
On May 6, Amanda Berry, who had been missing since 2003, broke free from Castro’s house with her 6-year-old daughter. When officers arrived, they found Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight also inside the home.
“I’ve been kidnapped. I’ve been missing 10 years. I’m here. I’m free now,” Berry told a 911 dispatcher.
Castro was arrested a short time after and had remained in jail on $8 million bond.
The women ranged in age at the time of their disappearances from 14 to 20 years old, but all went missing separately from Lorain Avenue on Cleveland’s west side. Castro kept them locked in separate rooms, and the victims had to slide things through holes cut in the doors.
Authorities said Castro fathered Berry’s 6-year-old and forced her to give birth in a small swimming pool in his basement.
Castro, a former bus driver for Cleveland Metropolitan School District, was fired in November after leaving his bus unattended. Even while keeping DeJesus locked up in his house, he stayed friends with her family, even attending vigil held in her honor.
Since regaining their freedom, Berry, DeJesus and Knight have asked for their privacy as they reconnect with family members and adjust to their new lives. Just weeks ago, they released a video thanking the community for donating to the Cleveland Courage Fund.