By Dave Andrusko
For a second time, accused kidnapper and murderer Ariel Castro pled not guilty this morning, this time to an expanded 977-count indictment after previously pleading not guilty to charges in a 329-count indictment.
Castro, a former school bus driver, is accused of having kidnapped three teenage women–Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus–between 2002 and 2004 and imprisoning them, sometimes restrained by chains, in his Cleveland home.
The old indictment covered the period May 2002 to February 2007. Last Friday a Grand Jury added 648 charges. The new indictment incorporates the old charges, covers the entire period through the women’s May 6, 2013, rescue, and includes two counts of aggravated murder.
“Castro faces aggravated murder charges under a fetal homicide law, for allegedly forcing Knight to miscarry,” Reuters reported. “According to the indictment, Knight was pregnant at least three times from September 2002 to December 2003. Aggravated murder charges qualify the case for the death penalty, but the prosecutor’s office has not yet decided whether to seek that punishment.”
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The new indictment of Castro includes 512 counts of kidnapping and 446 counts of rape, as well as three counts of child endangerment. DNA tests proved that Castro, 53, was the father of Berry’s six-year-old daughter whom police found in the house when they rescued the women.
Castro’s bond was continued at $8 million. Jury selection is scheduled to begin in August.