Suspect in alleged decade-long Ohio kidnapping pleads not guilty

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ariel castro

(CNN) — An Ohio man accused of murder, rape and holding three women in a Cleveland house against their will pleaded not guilty Wednesday. His attorney said it was an effort to stave off a death penalty and an arduous trial.

Ariel Castro, 52, wore an orange jumpsuit, kept his head bowed and didn’t speak as attorneys entered the plea on their client’s behalf at his brief arraignment in a Cleveland courtroom. He was indicted last week on 329 counts.

Defense attorney Craig Weintraub, speaking to reporters after the arraignment, said some charges in the indictment “cannot be disputed.” But the plea — targeting the murder accusations and the specter of a death penalty — signals an effort to forge a “resolution” and avoid a trial, he said.

Two counts accuse Castro of aggravated murder for purposely causing the unlawful termination of pregnancies. Police say one of the young women he’s accused of holding was impregnated five times by Castro, and another bore a child fathered by him.

Weintraub told reporters that the plea “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.”