A man accused of holding Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade pleaded not guilty Wednesday to hundreds of charges, including rape and kidnapping.
Castro, 52, didn’t speak during the arraignment, which lasted less than a minute. He stood motionless, dressed in an orange prison outfit, and looked toward the floor as the plea was entered.
A statement on the behalf of the three women says the arraignment day was “not easy” and the women are hoping for a just and prompt resolution.
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. He 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.
The 142-page indictment covers only the period from August 2002, when the first victim disappeared, to February 2007. Prosecutors say the investigation will continue and they are leaving the door open to pursuing a death penalty case against Castro.
After the arraignment, defense attorney Craig Weintraubthe said his team is working to avoid an “unnecessary trial” involving the death penalty. Prosecutors said they will review the comments.
News that the women had been found alive electrified the Cleveland area, where two of the victims were household names after years of searches, publicity and vigils. But elation soon turned to shock as allegations about their treatment began to emerge.
The indictment against Castro alleges he repeatedly restrained the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. It says one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.
Later, he moved them to upstairs rooms where they were kept as virtual prisoners, according to investigators.
All the while, Castro continued driving a school bus and playing bass in local bands, with fellow musicians saying they never suspected a thing. He was fired as a bus driver last fall after leaving his bus unattended for several hours.
Castro has been held on $8 million bail, which was continued. Last week he was taken off suicide prevention watch in jail. Cuyahoga County jail logs show him spending most of his time sleeping, lying on his bunk, watching TV and occasionally drawing.