, CHICAGO, June 2013 – An Ohio man accused of holding three women captive in his home for a decade has been indicted on hundreds of charges, including rape and aggravated murder , local media reported, in a case that has horrified the nation.
A US grand jury late Friday charged Ariel Castro, 52, on 329 counts, including 139 counts of rape, 177 of kidnapping and two of aggravated murder for the death of an unborn child of one of the victims.
Aggravated murder could carry the death penalty, though prosecutors say they haven’t yet decided whether they will seek it. But in any event, if convicted, Castro could face a sentence of multiple lifetimes.
He is to be arraigned next week.
Last month Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27,and the young daughter Berry gave birth to during her captivity were freed from Castro’s house when a neighbor heard Berry calling for help and kicked in the door to Castro’s house in a working-class Cleveland neighborhood.
The three women were each abducted separately Knight in 2002, Berry in 2003 and DeJesus in 2004.
A 142-page indictment included accounts of what happened to the kidnapped women including assaults, rapes, and torture through 2007. More charges could be added for the remaining years.
Prosecutors said that over the decade, the three women suffered repeated beatings, were bound and restrained and sexually assaulted, and never allowed to leave Castro’s home.
Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty last month called Castro’s home “a torture chamber and private prison,” telling reporters: “The horrific brutality and torture that the victims endured for a decade is beyond comprehension.”
Prosecutors have alleged that Knight miscarried as a result of beatings by Castro.
Lawyers for the women issued in a statement following the release of the indictments, saying “we have a great legal system plus confidence and faith in the prosecutor’s office and its decisions. Now, we need to stand back and let the judicial process unfold.”
Castro, who is being held on an $8 million bond, was arrested on May 6. His lawyer has said he will plead not guilty, urging the public to refrain from rushing to judgment of his client.
“He’s not a monster and he shouldn’t be demonized by the media,” the lawyer said.
Castro’s daughter Angie Gregg told CNN she was “horrified” at the accusations and has disowned her father, while his two brothers arrested with him and later cleared of involvement said they hope he goes to prison.