Ariel Castro, 52, is shown in this Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office booking photo taken on May 9, 2013. (Special Photo: Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office/Handout via Reuters)
CLEVELAND (Reuters) - A former Cleveland school bus driver, Ariel Castro, agreed on Friday to plead guilty and be imprisoned for life for kidnapping and raping three women he held captive in his home for about a decade.
At a court hearing, Ohio prosecutors in turn agreed that Castro will not be eligible for the death penalty.
Castro, 53, clad in an orange prison jumpsuit, told Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo that he understood he would never emerge from prison under the agreement.
“I do understand that,” Castro responded. “I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me.”
Castro was charged with 977 counts, including kidnapping and rape, for the abduction and imprisonment of Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27.
The women disappeared from 2002 to 2004, and were freed from Castro’s home in a rundown area of Cleveland on May 6. Also freed was a 6-year-old girl who, according to DNA evidence, was fathered by Castro with Berry during her captivity.
The women had been bound for periods of time in chains or ropes and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults, according to court documents and a police report. Avoiding a trial would spare them from having to testify.
He had also been charged with murder under a fetal homicide law for allegedly forcing one of the women to miscarry.
Under Ohio law, prosecutors could have sought the death penalty for the murder charge, but the plea agreement precludes that.