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Sunday 21 September 2014

Man denies Ohio kidnap charges

Published 17/07/2013 | 16:38

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Ariel Castro stands before a judge charged with kidnapping and raping three women over a decade in his Cleveland home (AP)

A man accused of holding three women captive in his home for more than a decade has pleaded not guilty to 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape.

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Ariel Castro previously pleaded not guilty to charges in a 329-count indictment. The 53-year-old entered a plea on an expanded indictment.

The judge continued his bond at 8 million dollars (£5.2 million). She repeatedly told Castro to raise his head and keep his eyes open during the brief court appearance.

Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus and Michelle Knight disappeared separately between 2002 and 2004, when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old. Each said they had accepted a ride from Castro, who remained friends with Ms Dejesus's family and even attended vigils over the years marking her disappearance.

Castro has been in custody since his arrest on May 6 shortly after the women escaped to freedom. In past court appearances, he has kept his head down, typically responding to a judge's questions with one-word answers.

He has been charged with two counts of aggravated murder related to one act, saying he purposely caused the unlawful termination of the pregnancy of one of the women.

Besides kidnapping and rape, the new indictment also charges him with seven counts of gross sexual imposition, six counts of felonious assault, three counts of child endangerment and one count of possessing criminal tools.

The women appeared in a YouTube video last week to thank people who donated to a fund created to benefit them. They otherwise have sought to stay out of sight and have appealed for privacy.

Castro is scheduled for trial on August 5, a date that could be delayed if the defence requests more preparation time. He pleaded not guilty to the earlier indictment of 329 counts. His legal team has hinted Castro would plead guilty if the death penalty was off the table.

Castro is accused of repeatedly restraining the women, sometimes chaining them to a pole in a basement, to a bedroom heater or inside a van. The charges say one of the women tried to escape and he assaulted her with a vacuum cord around her neck.

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