CLEVELAND -- A man charged with holding three women captive in his Cleveland home for about a decade and raping them is competent to stand trial, a judge ruled yesterday.

Cuyahoga County Judge Michael Russo said the results of an examination of Ariel Castro last week showed he is mentally able to understand the charges and assist attorneys in his defense.

Prosecutor Saleh Awadallah said a meeting is planned July 11 to discuss the possibility of seeking the death penalty for Castro, 52, who faces aggravated murder charges stemming from allegations that he caused the deliberate termination of a pregnancy of one of the women.

Awadallah invited Castro's attorney, Craig Weintraub, to submit evidence to him before the meeting to support an argument against the death penalty in the upcoming discussions. Castro's attorneys have hinted that he might plead guilty if talk of capital punishment was taken off the table.

At the end of the hearing, Castro asked for permission to visit with the 6-year-old daughter he fathered with one of the women he is accused of kidnapping and raping. The judge denied the request.

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Castro has pleaded not guilty to a 329-count indictment alleging he kidnapped three women off the streets between 2002 and 2004 when they were 14, 16 and 20 years old and held them for a decade in his two-story home in a rough Cleveland neighborhood.

-- AP