Ariel Castro, the man accused of kidnapping and holding captive three women in Ohio for over ten years, pleaded not guilty at an indictment on Wednesday. Castro’s charges have expanded from a 329-count indictment to a total of 977 counts. These charges include 512 counts of kidnapping, 446 counts of rape, 2 counts of aggravated murder, 7 counts of gross sexual imposition, 6 counts of felonious assault, 3 counts of child endangerment, and one count of possession of a criminal’s tools.
Castro was arrested on May 6 after the three captive women, Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, escaped from his home along with Berry’s six-year-old child, fathered by Castro. The murder charges refer to the unlawful termination of Michelle Knight’s pregnancy with Castro’s child.
This most recent indictment comes after a previous indictment in June of 329 various counts; however, the initial charges covered only a portion of the period that the women were held. The three women disappeared at different times between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16, and 20 years old. Castro reportedly restrained them repeatedly, chaining them to a pole in his basement, a bedroom heater, or the interior of a van. When one of them attempted to flee, Castro allegedly assaulted her with a vacuum cord wrapped around her neck.
Each woman reported that they were taken after accepting a ride from Castro. The suspect was friends with the DeJesus family, and continued a relationship with them even after kidnapping Gina DeJesus. He reportedly attended vigils with the family in the years following her disappearance.
Castro’s trial is currently set for August 5, although the date may be postponed should the defense need more time to prepare. His bail is set at $8 million, a number that remained unchanged after Wednesday’s indictment.
The three women issued a YouTube video last week thanking supporters for donating to a fund created for their benefit. Otherwise, they have maintained their wish to stay out of the public eye as much as possible.