The Ohio man accused of raping and holding three women captive in his home for about a decade has agreed to a plea deal that will see him imprisoned for life without the possibility of parole.
Ariel Castro, 53, was arrested in May after one of the women escaped.
He abducted Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23, from Cleveland streets between 2002-04.
Castro was charged with murder for beating and starving one of the women, who was pregnant, until she miscarried.
In a courtroom in Cleveland, Ohio, Judge Michael Russo repeatedly warned Castro he would never be let out of prison.
“Is that clear?” he asked Castro, who sat clad in an orange jail jumpsuit, his hands cuffed in front of him.
“I do understand that, your honour,” Castro, an unemployed school bus driver, replied. “I knew I was pretty much going to get the book thrown at me.”
No death penalty
Under the terms of the plea deal Castro will receive an additional prison sentence of 1,000 years and his property and other assets will be forfeited. He will also be classified as a sex offender.
The agreement protects him from further charges and from the death penalty.
The judge said there were plans to demolish the house where the women were held.
At the hearing, Castro told the judge he was abused as a child and said, “My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.”
Castro was charged with 977 counts including two of aggravated murder for the “unlawful termination” of one of the women’s pregnancies, as well as multiple counts of kidnapping and rape.
Other charges included gross sexual imposition, felonious assault and endangering children.
The three women were abducted after accepting car rides from Castro, police said. Neighbours said they did not think anyone had been living in the house where the women were imprisoned.
They were rescued from the house after Ms Berry kicked open a door while Castro was out of the house and was aided by a neighbour who heard her struggling and screaming.
When officials arrived they freed Ms Knight and Ms DeJesus, as well as Ms Berry’s six-year-old daughter, who was fathered by Mr Castro.
The house where the three women were held will probably be demolished, the judge said
Ms Knight disappeared in 2002 when she was 20 years old. The following year Ms Berry vanished the day before her 17th birthday, and Ms DeJesus went missing in 2004 at the age of 14.
While in captivity, one of the women became pregnant many times and suffered multiple miscarriages.
One woman also said that she was forced to help Ms Berry deliver her baby and was threatened with death if the baby did not survive.
Castro was accused of chaining the women to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or holding them inside a van.
Prosecutors also said Castro garrotted one of the women with a vacuum cord after catching her trying to escape.
Months after their release, the three women appeared in a video thanking the public for their support. Otherwise, they have requested privacy and a speedy resolution to the case against Castro.