Ariel Castro, Cleveland Kidnapping Suspect, May Receive Additional Charges

Prosecutors may seek the death penalty for the man accused of kidnapping three Cleveland women.

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Refusing to make eye contact with anyone, the Cleveland man accused of kidnapping three women gave one-word answers to a judge's questions in his brief court appearance Wednesday.

[PHOTOS: Amanda Berry, Others Escape Cleveland Kidnapping]

Former bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, is accused of kidnapping and raping Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight while he held them captive for more than a decade. He was arrested on May 6 after the women escaped from his home, and was indicted on more than 300 charges, to which he pleaded not guilty earlier this month.

The indictment covers the period from August 2002, when the first of the women disappeared, to February 2007. It includes two counts of aggravated murder, 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault and one count of possessing criminal tools.

The murder charges involve the termination of the pregnancy of one of the women, according to Reuters. Castro impregnated Knight between November 2006 and February 2007 and forced her to miscarry by assaulting her, according to the indictment.

Authorities plan to present additional evidence next week to bring more charges against him, Reuters reported. Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty told the judge that additional evidence would be presented to a grand jury over the next few weeks and that the prosecution may seek the death penalty for the aggravated murder charges.

[READ: Ohio Kidnapper Ariel Castro Could Face Death Penalty, Prosecutor Says]

Additionally, authorities have said that DNA testing proves Castro fathered Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was also rescued with the women last month. County prosecutors have not yet brought kidnapping charges in her case.

Castro's attorney Craig Weintraub said last week that his client is willing to plead guilty to some charges and forgo a trial if it would spare him a death sentence, according to The Plain Dealer.

Weintraub said Wednesday that the defense was focused on whether there is enough evidence to convict Castro on the alleged aggravated murder charge, according to the Associated Press.

"That's the most important aspect of the case to us and obviously whether or not the death penalty would be applicable," he said. "It's been shifted to the prosecutor's office as to whether or not they want to pursue this. But as of right now, we haven't received any of the evidence that would support an aggravated murder conviction."

[ALSO: Why Are We All So Obsessed With the Cleveland Kidnapping Case]

Ohio lawmakers also briefly addressed a bill Wednesday that would give the women years of relief payments, college tuition and medical assistance, according to the Associated Press.

The women would receive a minimum of $25,000 each year in reparations for the years they were held captive. The bill also requires the pursuit of a federal waiver for anyone held in "involuntary servitude" for at least eight years to collect lifetime government medical assistance.

Castro remains jailed on an $8 million bail and is scheduled to return to court for a pretrial hearing on June 26. His trial date is currently set for August 4.

 

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