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Ariel Castro pleads guilty to imprisoning Ohio women

CLEVELAND -- The man who imprisoned three women in his home, subjecting them to a decade of rapes and beatings, pleaded guilty yesterday to 937 counts in a deal to avoid the death penalty.

In exchange for his plea, prosecutors recommended Ariel Castro be sentenced to life without parole plus 1,000 years.

Castro, 53, said he understood that he would never get out of prison, saying he expected he was "going to get the book thrown at me." Castro told the judge he was addicted to pornography, had a "sexual problem" and had been a sexual abuse victim himself long ago.

He was far more interactive than in previous court appearances when he mostly kept his head down and eyes closed. He answered the judge's questions in a clear, intelligible voice.

"My addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind," he said. He later said he had been a sexual abuse victim as a child, but the judge cut him off.

Near the end of the hearing, the judge accepted the pleas and declared Castro guilty. Sentencing was set for Thursday.

The deal comes more than a month after a statement issued on behalf of the women said they were "hopeful for a just and prompt resolution." Castro had been scheduled for trial Aug. 5. The indictment included two counts of aggravated murder related to accusations that he punched and starved one woman until she miscarried. The former school bus driver also was charged with hundreds of counts of kidnapping and rape, plus assault and other counts.

Assistant Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Blaise Thomas said he wants to make sure Castro will never see the girl he fathered with one of his victims.

Chief Prosecutor Tim McGinty also says the county will use more than $20,000 seized from Castro to tear down his house. McGinty said the plan is to also tear down two abandoned houses next door and acquire a vacant lot for a park.

The three women -- 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.

They escaped Castro's house May 6 when one of them kicked out part of a door and called to neighbors for help. Castro was arrested within hours and has remained behind bars.

Since their rescue, the women have sought to stay out of sight and have appealed for privacy.

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