CLEVELAND, OHIO, UNITED STATES (JUNE 12, 2013) (NBC) - The Ohio man accused of kidnapping three women and holding them captive in his Cleveland home for a decade pleaded "not guilty" in a Clevelandcourtroom on Wednesday (June 12) to several hundred charges that also include rape and aggravated murder.
Former school bus driver Ariel Castro was indicted on Friday (June 07) on 329 criminal counts in connection with the imprisonment of Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27. The women were freed from Castro's house on May 6.
He is charged with aggravated murder in the assault and impregnation of Knight between November 2006 and February 2007 and forcing her to miscarry, according to the indictment.
Castro, 52, is being held in jail on an $8 million bond.
The indictment issued by a Cuyahoga County grand jury includes 139 counts of rape and 177 counts of kidnapping. It includes some details on how the women were restrained during their ordeal, including that Castro at one point taped the legs and mouth of one of the victims and chained her to a pole in the basement, with a motorcycle helmet on her head.
The indictment covers only the period from August 2002, when Knight disappeared, until February 2007, and more charges are expected.
The aggravated murder charge stems from Knight's fourth pregnancy. According to a police report, Castro caused Knight to suffer at least five miscarriages by starving her and beating her in the abdomen.
"Although, certain charges in the indictment cannot be disputed a not guilty plea at this stage requires the prosecutor to continue to evaluate their case and determine whether medical and forensic evidence can actually support an aggravated murder conviction for the death of a fetus and whether the death penalty is warranted," said Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub after court.
Ohio is one of 38 states to have a fetal homicide law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Legal experts said the murder case will be complicated by a lack of physical evidence of the miscarriage and medical records.
Berry was freed along with her 6-year-old daughter last month by neighbors from the Cleveland house owned by Castro.
Berry disappeared the day before her 17th birthday in 2003, after leaving her job at Burger King. Police say DNA tests prove that Castro is the father of her child.
Cleveland police responded to Berry's 911 call and found DeJesus, 23, and Knight, 32, inside the house. DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared on her way home from school in 2004.
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