Cleveland Kidnapper Ariel Castro Avoids Death Penalty With Plea Deal

The man accused of kidnapping and holding three women captive for 10 years may avoid the death penalty.

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Ariel Castro, the man accused of kidnapping three Cleveland women and raping them as he held them captive for a decade, agreed to a plea deal on Friday to avoid the death penalty.

In exchange for pleading guilty to the charges, Castro, 53, would receive life in prison without parole, plus 1,000 years.

While in court Friday morning to enter the guilty plea, a judge asked Castro if he understood he would never be released from prison.

[VIDEO: Cleveland Kidnapping Victims Thank Supporters]

"I do understand that, your honor," Castro said, according to The Associated Press. "I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me."

Castro has been held on a $8 million bond was scheduled to stand trial Aug. 5 on a 977-count indictment, to which he previously pleaded not guilty.

Originally, prosecutors charged Castro on 329 counts, including 139 counts of rape, 177 counts of kidnapping, seven counts of gross sexual imposition, three counts of felonious assault, two counts of aggravated murder and one count of possessing criminal tools.

But prosecutors added more charges earlier this month, and intended to seek the death penalty for the two counts of aggravated murder, which stemmed from accusations that he punched and starved one woman until she miscarried.

The women were kidnapped separately between 2002 and 2004 and were trapped in Castro's home for 10 years, until a neighbor heard their cries for help. Castro, a former bus driver, was arrested on May 6 after police freed Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight, as well as Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was fathered by Castro.

In a pre-trail hearing earlier this month, Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo denied Castro's request to see the child during the proceedings.

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

"I just think that would be inappropriate," Russo said.

About a month ago, a statement issued on behalf of the women said they were "hopeful for a just and prompt resolution" and had "great faith in the prosecutor's office and the court," the AP reported.

Berry, DeJesus and Knight have only spoken publicly once about the ordeal since their rescue, when they published a 3 minute, 30 second video July 9 to thank their supporters and ask the public to respect their privacy.

"I may have been through hell and back, but I am strong enough to walk through hell with a smile on my face and with my head held high," Knight says in the video. "I will not let the situation define who I am. I will define the situation. I don't want to be consumed by hatred."

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