CLEVELAND (Reuters) - The man accused of imprisoning three young women in his house in Cleveland for a decade is expected to plead not guilty on Wednesday to more than 300 criminal counts including rape, kidnapping and murder.
Former school bus driver Ariel Castro, 52, was indicted last week on 329 criminal counts in connection with the imprisonment of Gina DeJesus, 23, Michelle Knight, 32, and Amanda Berry, 27. The women were freed from Castro's house on May 6.
He is charged with aggravated murder in the assault and impregnation of Knight between November 2006 and February 2007 and forcing her to miscarry, according to the indictment.
According to a police report, Castro caused Knight to suffer at least five miscarriages by starving her and beating her in the abdomen.
Castro is being held on an $8 million bond. He is expected to appear in court in person, according to a court spokesman.
His attorneys said Castro intends to plead not guilty to the charges, which cover the period from August 2002, when Knight disappeared, into 2007.
More charges are possible as the criminal investigation continues, according to Cuyahoga County prosecutors.
A committee will consider seeking the death penalty after a complete indictment is issued, prosecutors said. Ohio is one of 38 states that have fetal homicide laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Berry was freed along with her 6-year-old daughter by neighbors from Castro's house. Berry disappeared the day before her 17th birthday in 2003 after leaving her job at a Burger King restaurant. Police say DNA tests prove that Castro is the father of her child.
Cleveland police responded to Berry's 911 call and found DeJesus and Knight inside the house. DeJesus was 14 when she disappeared on her way home from school in 2004.
According to the prosecutor's office, FBI agents have returned to Castro's home this week to conduct further investigations.
(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Mary Wisniewski)
(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2013. Check for restrictions at: http://about.reuters.com/fulllegal.asp