CLEVELAND — A man accused of holding three women captive in his home for about a decade pleaded not guilty Wednesday to hundreds of rape and kidnapping charges, and the defense hinted at avoiding a trial with a plea deal if the death penalty were ruled out.
The death penalty is in play because among the accusations facing Ariel Castro, 52, is that he forced a miscarriage by one of the women, which is considered a killing under Ohio law. That charge doesn't include a possible death penalty, but a prosecutor has said that's under review.
The women disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each said they had accepted a ride from Castro.
Castro, dressed Wednesday in an orange jail outfit with his hands and ankles shackled, kept his chin tucked on his chest through a court appearance.
Attorney Craig Weintraub acknowledged afterward that "certain charges in the indictment cannot be disputed" and said the defense was working to avoid an "unnecessary trial" with a possible death penalty sentence.
"Mr. Castro currently faces hundreds of years in prison with the current charges," Weintraub said. "It is our hope that we can continue to work toward a resolution to avoid having an unnecessary trial about aggravated murder and the death penalty."
The prosecutor's office will look at the defense remarks but had no immediate comment, said Joe Frolik, spokesman for Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty.
The 329-count indictment returned Friday covered only the period from August 2002, when the first of the women disappeared, to February 2007. More charges could be filed.
Castro 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. He was also charged with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying he purposely caused the unlawful termination of one of the pregnancies of one of the women.