US kidnapper expected to speak at sentencing hearing
Ariel Castro, who pleaded guilty to holding three young women captive in his Ohio home for a decade, is expected to speak about his crimes at a sentencing hearing Thursday.
While Castro's guilty plea spared his victims from having to testify, more details of their ordeal are expected to be revealed Thursday when prosecutors present evidence of abuse and call experts to explain how Castro controlled them for so long.
The former school bus driver agreed to spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole last week after prosecutors took the death penalty off the table.
It is unlikely his victims -- Michelle Knight, 32, Amanda Berry, 27, and Gina DeJesus, 23 -- will attend the hearing.
Snatched off the street in separate incidents at the ages of 20, 16, and 14, the women suffered violent beatings and repeated rapes.
Castro used chains and psychological manipulation to keep them in his ramshackle house in a working class neighborhood of Cleveland.
The women have begged the media and public to respect their privacy and give them time to heal. In a statement last week they said they were "relieved" by the plea deal and "satisfied by this resolution to the case."
The judge has, however, allotted time for statements from the victims or their "representatives."
The stunning case came to light after Berry managed to escape with her six-year-old daughter by calling out to a neighbor for help through a locked front door on May 6.
DNA tests showed that Castro is the girl's father. He has repeatedly asked Judge Michael Russo to allow him to see her, a request the judge deemed "inappropriate."
A 977-count indictment and leaked police report have provided glimpses of the horrifying ordeal.
Knight, who was the first to be snatched in 2002 and reportedly suffered the worst abuse, was impregnated four times during her captivity.
She told police that Castro would starve her for at least two weeks once he found out she was pregnant and then punch her in the stomach again and again until she miscarried.
Berry -- kidnapped in 2003 a day before her 17th birthday -- was allowed to carry a pregnancy to term. She was forced to give birth in a plastic kiddie pool on Christmas Day, 2006 and Castro forced Knight to assist, telling her "if baby died... he'd kill her," the police report said.
DeJesus was just 14 when she was abducted in 2004. Castro used her friendship with his daughter to lure DeJesus into his car.
The women told police they were chained in the basement during their early years of captivity, but eventually were allowed to live unchained upstairs behind locked doors.
Police do not understand why none of the people who visited the unassuming house at 2207 Seymour -- including Castro's family -- realized what was going on there.
Castro's adult children and two brothers -- who had to go into hiding after being briefly detained as suspects -- have publicly condemned and disowned him.