Cleveland kidnapping suspect Ariel Castro today pleaded not guilty to a 977-count indictment that includes charges related to kidnapping women and holding them in the basement of his home, where he raped them and assaulted them to the point of causing abortions.
“Castro was charged anew last week in an indictment that covers the entire 10-year period prosecutors say Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight were imprisoned and repeatedly raped in Castro’s Seymour Avenue home,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.
The newspaper has more on the case:
The new indictment includes charges from a previous 329-count indictment against Castro, to which he pleaded not guilty. Craig Weintraub, one of Castro’s attorneys, has said there are some charges against Castro that cannot be refuted and that a plea deal can be reached if Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty does not seek the death penalty.
The two charges that could call for the death penalty are for aggravated murder. They stem from accusations that Castro beat and tortured one of the three women into suffering a miscarriage.
McGinty said previously that he may seek the death penalty for Castro, but so far neither indictment includes death penalty specifications. McGinty reserves the right to add them later.
The new indictment of Castro includes 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape, as well as three counts of child endangerment.
Berry gave birth to a child during her imprisonment that was fathered by Castro.
Castro starved and kicked one of the kidnapped pregnant women, Michelle Knight, resulting in her miscarrying five children.
Michelle’s brother Freddie tells the New York Daily News that Michelle wants to be reunited with the son she had before she was abducted by Castro. He was born after Michelle was gang-raped by boys at school prior to her abduction.
After Castro was apprehended, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said his office intended to seek charges not only for the sexual assaults endured by the victims, but also “each act of aggravated murder he committed by terminating pregnancies.” Local pro-life groups in Ohio asked McGinty to follow through on his promise and the county jury did just that.
Two counts of the indictment are for aggravated murder in the deaths of two unborn babies.
Several national and Ohio pro-life groups joined together to sign and deliver a letter asking Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty to file murder charges against Ariel Castro for killing five unborn children during the kidnapping of Michelle Knight, one of the three women he abducted. The signers of the letter believed that Castro should be charged for violating Ohio’s Fetal Homicide Law.
A representative of one of the groups told LifeNews he’s happy the grand jury returned charges.
“Our coalition is pleased that the prosecutor kept his word by following our urging to charge Castro with murder. The grand juries’ decision to charge Castro with murdering two of the unborn children that Michelle Knight was carrying will hopefully bring them justice,” said Mark Harrington of Created Equal. “These babies deserve the same protection that all pregnant mothers have. Despite the fact that the Michelle Knight was not also killed in this instance is beside the point. We expect Castro to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for murdering these unborn babies.”
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The Ohio Fetal Homicide Law (ORC 2903.01) reads, “No person shall purposely, and with prior calculation and design, cause the death of another or the unlawful termination of another’s pregnancy.”
Harrington said Castro should be charged with aggravated and felonious assault against Knight and aggravated murder of her five children.
Attorney Samuel Casey, a pro-life advocate who has been closely monitoring the case, said, “We believe that whether a child is in utero or ‘born alive’ — whether we call it fetal homicide or infanticide—it is a criminal action to take an innocent human being’s life. The mother’s consent (particularly when it is coerced or uninformed) should make no difference to the existence of the crime being committed. Whether the apparent motive is a commercial one (as in Kermit Gosnell’s case) or sexual abuse (as in Castro’s case), it should be just as criminal for a health care provider or a sexual deviant to kill a baby born or preborn because pregnancy is not a disease and induced abortion is never health care.”