Prosecutor: Ariel Castro could face death penalty

Ariel Castro is arraigned at Cleveland Municipal Court on Thursday on charges of four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape.

CLEVELAND — The man accused of holding three women captive in his house for more than a decade could face the death penalty if it’s determined he is responsible for the deaths of the victims’ unborn children, prosecutors said Thursday.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said pending further police investigation, Castro, 52, could face charge of murder in the course of kidnapping, which carries a potential death penalty. McGinty will present the case to the grand jury and could seek aggravated murder charges for each of the pregnancies.

Initial police reports obtained by Cleveland TV station WKYC said kidnap victims Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were raped by Castro. Knight was impregnated five times during her captivity, then starved and beaten, forcing the termination of the fetuses. Berry, also impregnated, gave birth to a baby — now 6 — in Castro’s basement, according to the report.

Earlier Monday, Castro was arraigned on seven charges of kidnapping and rape. Handcuffed and wearing a dark blue jail jumpsuit, Castro stared at the floor through most of the five-minute hearing, even as he exchanged words and a few nods with public defender Kathleen DeMetz, his attorney. Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lauren Moore set bail at $8 million.

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It was Castro’s first court appearance since his arrest Monday, after Berry’s screams alerted neighbors, then police and the world to the nightmare she and fellow victims DeJesus and Knight endured.

Prosecutor Brian Murphy said the rape and kidnapping charges are based on Castro’s “premeditated, deliberate and depraved decisions to snatch three young ladies from Cleveland’s west-side streets to use for whatever self-gratifying, self-serving ways that he saw fit.”.

He said the women were forced to endure a “horrifying ordeal for more than a decade” in which they had been “bound, restrained and sexually assaulted.”.

“They were never free to leave this residence,” he said, referring to Castro’s Seymour Avenue home.

Castro did not enter a plea, which DeMetz said would be done when the case is transferred to county court. She acknowledged that Castro could face additional charges.

Contributing: Doug Stanglin and Yamiche Alcindor, USA TODAY; the Associated Press.

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