Ariel Castro to speak at sentencing, lawyer says; so will at least 1 victim

Posted at 4:27 PM, Jul 31, 2013
and last updated 2013-07-31 18:27:36-04

By CNN Staff

(CNN) — Ariel Castro, the Cleveland man who imprisoned three women in his home for nearly a decade, is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday in a Cuyahoga County courthouse, and will speak at the hearing, his attorney, Craig Weintraub, said Wednesday.

Castro’s sentencing comes after he agreed to plead guilty last week to 937 counts including murder and kidnapping. The hearing is expected to last hours and will feature witnesses and evidence gathered over the course of the investigation, a Cuyahoga County court source told CNN on Tuesday.

At least one of his victims, Michelle Knight, will likely make an impact statement during Thursday’s hearing, said Castro’s sister Marisol Alicea. A source with direct knowledge of the investigation also said that Knight intends to speak.

It is unclear if the other three women will speak at the sentencing. They could make a videotaped statement, or a family member could talk on their behalf.

The plea deal recommends that Castro be sentenced to life in prison without parole plus at least 1,000 years, meaning the former school bus driver will never get a parole hearing, but he would avoid the possibility of being sentenced to death. It would also mean that a trial Castro was facing on August 5 would not happen, and that would spare his victims from having to testify.

The Cuyahoga County court source says the prosecution wants to make sure there’s a record going forward in case of a future appellate process, should Castro want to try to get out of prison despite his recommended life sentence. Prosecutors also want the court and public to understand the impact Castro had on his victims and the community.

This testimony is expected to show the effect on the women and their families, the source adds.

Castro abducted Knight, Amanda Berry and Georgina “Gina” DeJesus separately in a two-year period starting in 2002, authorities say.

The women and Berry’s 6-year-old daughter were held in Castro’s 1,400-square-foot home during the decade since the first abduction. DNA tests have confirmed that Castro is the child’s father. They were freed in May after one of the women shouted for help while Castro was away.

Neighbor Charles Ramsey said he heard their cries as he was sitting down to eat.

“I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of a house,” he told CNN affiliate WEWS. “I go on the porch and she says, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been in here a long time.’ ”

Finally free, Berry pleaded for a phone.

“Help me, I am Amanda Berry,” she frantically told a 911 operator. “I’ve been kidnapped, and I’ve been missing for 10 years. And I’m here, I’m free now.”

In early July, Berry, DeJesus and Knight released a YouTube video offering their thanks to all those who have helped them since they were freed. They have not faced their captor and tormentor since their rescue.

“I want to thank everyone who has helped me and my family through this entire ordeal. Everyone who has been there to support us has been a blessing,” Berry said in the video. “I’m getting stronger each day.”

CNN’s Chris Boyette, Ronni Berke, Pamela Brown, Ashley Fantz and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.

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