Ohio kidnapping suspect pleads not guilty

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A Cleveland man accused of holding three young women captive for a decade has pleaded not guilty to charges of kidnapping, rape and murder for beating one pregnant captive until she miscarried.

Ariel Castro, 52, appeared in court on Wednesday and did not speak while his lawyer entered the plea.

Castro could face the death penalty if convicted of the aggravated murder charge, which is a capital offence in Ohio if it occurs in connection with a kidnapping.

Kidnapping and rape are not capital offences.

The case came to light after Amanda Berry, 27, managed to escape with her six-year-old daughter on May 6 by calling out to a neighbour for help through a locked front door.

Police found two more women in the house, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32.

All three had been snatched in separate incidents in 2002, 2003 and 2004 at the ages of 14, 16 and 20 with the promise of a ride home.

Chained and raped

The 329-count indictment handed down last week only covers the first five years of their captivity.

Knight, who was the first to be snatched, was allegedly chained to a post in the basement, repeatedly raped and beaten and impregnated at least four times.

Berry reportedly tried to escape the night she was kidnapped but was overwhelmed and then raped.

Her legs and mouth were bound with tape, she was chained to a pole in the basement and Castro put a motorcycle helmet on her head, the indictment said.

At one point that night it is alleged that he wrapped a vacuum cord around her neck.

DeJesus was also reportedly chained and bound with tape in the basement, beaten and sexually assaulted on the night she was kidnapped.

Knight told police that Castro "would make her abort the baby," the police report read.

"He starved her for at least two weeks and then repeatedly punched her in stomach until she miscarried."

A DNA test has proved that Berry's child is Castro's daughter.


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