CLEVELAND — Sources tell FOX 8 News a plea deal has been offered to accused kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro.
Castro, 53, is accused of holding three women captive in his Seymour Avenue home in Cleveland for about 10 years.
He pleaded not guilty to 977 charges including 2 counts of aggravated murder for allegedly beating one of the women until she miscarried.
If the aggravated murder charges are dropped, it would remove the death penalty as a possible punishment, making the deal more enticing to Castro.
Amanda Berry, now 27, Gina DeJesus, now 23, and Michelle Knight, now 32, escaped from the home in May.
Sources tell Fox 8 I-Team Reporter Peggy Sinkovich the deal is life without parole and could include additional years.
The last minute negotiations began after Castro’s pre-trial hearing in Judge Michael Russo’s courtroom at the Justice Center Wednesday.
During the hearing, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty laid out the mountain of evidence against Castro.
“We’ve got nearly 1,000 counts in a period of ten years of solid crime, it never stopped,” McGinty said.
Castro’s attorneys said they did not have enough time to prepare and properly process all of the evidence to meet the scheduled August 5 trial date.
But now, it may all be irrelevant.
Clevelanders seemed to have diverse opinions on the plea agreement. Some support the idea of the deal because it would prevent the girls from having to testify in court.
“I think it’s a good idea so the girls don’t have to testify. They’ve been through enough,” said Mark Heimburder.
Others were torn on the issue.
“I’d rather see him go to trial, but it’s hard to say because of the girls. You’ve gotta think about them,” said Terrie Morris.
Late Thursday afternoon, Fox 8 News Reporter Suzanne Stratford obtained a copy of a motion filed to amend the indictment pursuant to criminal rule 7 (D) involving “Forfeiture of Property” section of count 977.
The amendment deletes language from the indictment involving Castro’s personal property including multiple motorcycles, vehicles and a pension.
That would stop prosecutors from seizing Castro’s property, allowing him to potentially give it all to family and friends.
A lawyer representing the young ladies could not comment on the potential deal or if the women would deliver any victim impact statements.
Castro is scheduled to be in court Friday morning at 10 a.m., although Defense Attorney Jaye Schlachet would not say if the plea deal would be formalized at that time.
If a deal is not reached, jurors have been summoned for a trial scheduled for August 5.