Ariel Castro, the 53-year-old Cleveland former bus driver charged with kidnapping — and keeping in captivity — Amanda Berry, Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, Michelle Knight (and a 6-year-old daughter of Berry, fathered by him), agreed Friday to a plea deal that will avoid the death penalty as well as the need for his alleged victims to testify at a trial.
The alleged victims were rescued, and Castro was arrested, on May 6, 2013. He was charged two days later with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape. He has since been indicted on 977 counts, including 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, and 2 counts of aggravated murder.
Friday's plea deal recommends that Castro be sentenced to life in prison (plus at least 1,000 years) without parole. According to CNN, Judge Michael J. Russo told Castro he would be labeled as a "sexual predator," to which Castro responded that he understood. He added that he too had been "a victim as a child," and that he "missed his daughter."
Russo told Castro he could say whatever he wanted during a sentencing hearing. The judge also said the victims would be notified of the hearing, and would then have a chance to issue their official statements. Under the plea deal, the house where the women were confined will be demolished.
Though the alleged victims haven't yet issued a statement after the plea deal, an attorney for the three women had told CNN that they were hoping for such deal, as they do not want to take the stand at a trial.
In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video thanking those who have helped them since they were freed.