Ariel Castro appeared in a Cleveland court Wednesday morning to plead not guilty to hundreds of criminal charges accusing him of kidnapping, assault, rape and murder.
Castro, a former school bus driver, was arrested May 6 after three women missing for a decade escaped from his small home. The women told police they were imprisoned and tortured for years by Castro, who was promptly arrested.
A 142-page grand jury indictment accuses Castro of two counts of aggravated murder for one of the alleged beating-induced miscarriages he caused.
The defendant, 52, appeared in court for less than a minute and did not speak during the arraignment proceedings Wednesday, The Associated Press reports. Defense attorney Jaye Schlachet entered the plea on Castro's behalf.
Craig Weintraub, another attorney representing Castro, said after the hearing some of the charges "cannot be disputed," the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The not guilty plea, he said, was merely a formality to move the process along.
"We are very sensitive to the emotional strain and the impact that a trial would have on the women, their families and this community," Weintraub said, expressing optimism that the case could be resolved without a trial.
"We understand the legal process needs to run its course," said attorney Jim Wooley, who is representing the victims, in a Wednesday statement quoted by the Plain Dealer. "We are hopeful for a just and prompt resolution. We have great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court."
Jail records say Castro, held by authorities in lieu of $8 million bail, has been spending his time doodling, sleeping and watching TV, according to the AP.
It's not yet clear if prosecutors will seek the death penalty as punishment for Castro, but Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy McGinty opened the door to that possibility in May, telling reporters he would begin a "formal process" to decide if Castro qualifies as one of "those most depraved criminals" eligible for execution.
During Castro's initial court appearance on May 9 Cuyahoga County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Brian Murphy taunted the alleged monster. "Today the situation is turned on him," Murphy said. "Mr. Castro stands before you a captive, in captivity, a prisoner."
Castro allegedly kept the women chained in his basement before gradually allowing them to live upstairs. When guests would visit, he allegedly bound and gagged the women in his attic and played loud music to drown out any possible noises. Despite having many relatives in the city, all professed ignorance and horror at learning of his apparent crimes.
The shocking criminal case began when 27-year-old Amanda Berry, kidnapped in 2003, and her 6-year-old daughter born in captivity escaped Castro's home with the help of neighbor Charles Ramsey, who was enjoying a Big Mac for lunch when he heard Berry's screams for help. Also rescued from the home were 32-year-old Michelle Knight, missing since 2002, and 23-year-old Gina DeJesus, missing since 2004.
Knight was impregnated five times in captivity and each time miscarried after Castro allegedly beat her abdomen, according to a police report cited by ABC News.