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Lawyer: Ohio kidnap suspect to plead not guilty

CLEVELAND -- The man accused of keeping three women in captivity for about a decade will plead not guilty and loves the 6-year-old girl he fathered with one of the women, a member of his defense team said yesterday.

Craig Weintraub, a former prosecutor representing Ariel Castro, 52, on rape and kidnapping charges, said in an interview that the location of a trial is "always an issue when you have a case that has such fantastic notoriety." Castro's defense team, including Weintraub colleague Jaye Schlachet, must decide at some point whether to ask to have any trial moved out of Cleveland, Weintraub said.

Castro, a former school bus driver, was arrested May 6 shortly after Amanda Berry kicked out part of a locked door of his house and yelled to neighbors to help her and call police. Police quickly arrived and found Berry in the street holding a child and then raced through the house, freeing Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight. The women remain in seclusion appealing for privacy.

The three disappeared between 2002 and 2004, when they were in their teens or early 20s, authorities said.

Castro has been jailed on $8 million bond.

Weintraub, interviewed in his law office in a skyscraper overlooking the county jail and courts building, said Castro has made it clear that he loves his 6-year-old daughter born to Berry.

"I know that that seems to be irrational from the public perception standpoint, but he does indeed love her and is concerned about her future," Weintraub said.

He said the issue of custody hadn't been mentioned in discussions with Castro.

The girl was born Christmas Day 2006, delivered by Knight in a kiddie pool so the cleanup would be easy, police say.

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